British Columbia

We spent a day taking Uber and Lyft in Vancouver. Here's what we learned

Uber and Lyft are now free to operate in Vancouver, and many drivers are eager to get behind the wheel. In fact, some cab drivers are even getting in on the action.

Cab drivers are switching to ride-hailing while some drivers are disappointed with wages

James Su is one of many rideshare drivers that have taken to the streets in Vancouver. He says the pay isn't quite what he expected. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

After years of waiting, James Su didn't get to test out his Uber license the day the service launched in Vancouver. His wife wouldn't let him.

"It was Chinese New Years Eve," he said, laughing. "[She] stopped me from going out."

But on Saturday, he made up for the lost time, taking to the road at 9 a.m. PT and barely finding time for a break for the next six hours.

CBC News spent the day using ride-hailing services across Vancouver, chatting with drivers like Su, who say there is demand from eager passengers. Here's what we learned from taking rides around town.

Lyft started making trips in Vancouver on January 24. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Cab drivers already making the switch

If you can't beat them — join them.

That's the attitude of one Uber driver, who asked not to be named fearing repercussions from his employer at a Vancouver-based taxi company.

"Nobody can fight with technology," he told CBC News, which agreed to protect his identity.

"We couldn't get Uber here because of politics and power, but the funny thing is, nobody can fight it — there is nothing more powerful than technology. So, I wanted to be ahead of the game."

He said the choice was made easier by complaints people have about the taxi industry.

"I was trying to give very good service to people [as a cab driver]," he said. "But people have a very bad impression of the taxi industry, no matter how good you are."

"I believe in the end, most of the taxi drivers are going to switch to this. They have no choice," he said.

The Vancouver Taxi Association said Friday its members are extremely upset with the Passenger Transportation Board's (PTB) decision to approve ride-hailing.

It says the new service will be devastating to the taxi industry and those who work in it.

The association is pursuing a judicial review of the PTB's decision and asking the board to regulate the number of ride-hailing vehicles in the same way it restricts the size of taxi fleets.

Uber and Lyft are paying drivers up to $500 to sign up for services. For now, a driver shortage can mean waits for rides. (CBC)

Wage disappointments

Lyft driver Donald Chang took to the streets shortly after the service officially launched in Vancouver on Friday. He said he worked for about three hours and made just over $100.

He was hoping to have earned more.

"I don't think it's what I expected, the price isn't that high" said Chang, who bought a new vehicle so he could become a rideshare driver.

It's a sentiment echoed by James Su, who expects he'll average about $300 per day.

"I just [drove] a South African couple from Richmond to East Vancouver, and that only gives me $17," he said. "It was a long trip — I think it should have been over $20."

Su would like to see a lower commission taken by ridesharing companies. He says Uber takes about 25 per cent of each fare. Lyft's driver fees vary.

Ride-hailing services use demand pricing, as opposed to fixed taxi charges.

A customer takes the first Lyft ride in Vancouver on Jan. 24, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Wait times, wait times, wait times

Both companies are eager for more drivers and currently offering a $500 bonus for those who sign up.

The shortage can be noticeable when hailing a ride, with wait times sometimes exceeding 15 minutes. Despite being available across Metro Vancouver, numerous Uber requests by CBC News expired before the app was able to assign a driver.

Lyft has limited its operations to the core of Vancouver to optimize its service.

Still, drivers say it's early yet for the service and expect there will be more cars on the road day by day — and plenty more passengers, too.

"I think it's going to get a lot busier in the future," said Chang.


Jon Hernandez

Video Journalist

Jon Hernandez is an award-winning multimedia journalist from Vancouver, British Columbia. His reporting has explored mass international migration in Chile, controversial logging practices in British Columbia, and the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. Follow Jon Hernandez on Twitter:


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