Vancouver refuses new taxis for another 12 months
Published Wednesday, October 19, 2016 4:13PM PDT
There won’t be any more cabs or ride-hailing apps on the streets of Vancouver for at least another year now that city council has refused to allow any additional licences until October 2017.
On its surface the city council appears to be biding its time while a provincial consultation process drags on about ride-hailing app Uber, which wants into the Vancouver market.
“Everyone needs more service. How are we going to do that? Ride sharing? More taxi service? Those are big, regional questions, but the provincial government is taking its fair time to get at them,” said Coun. Geoff Meggs.
But the effect is to further delay the arrival of dozens of taxis from suburban companies who say they could put cabs on city streets now, according to Mohan Kang of the B.C. Taxi Association.
“We are disappointed,” Kang told CTV News. “It’s just red tape that is not helping serve the people of Vancouver. They need these cabs for safety and just to get to work.”
Taxis operating in Vancouver have to pass a double-barreled licensing scheme: they must be approved by the province’s Passenger Transportation Board, and then also be approved at the city level.
There are 708 taxis operating in the City of Vancouver, including 99 that just operate on weekends, under the Vancouver Taxi Association’s four brands, Yellow Cab, Vancouver Taxi, McClure’s and Black Top Cabs.
The province’s PTB had approved another 34 taxis from suburban operators in 2012. The City of Vancouver refused to license them, which prompted the suburban operators to sue and eventually lose.
The Vancouver Taxi Association is a significant donor to civic and provincial parties and is registered provincially to lobby the B.C. government.
Meanwhile, Uber is lobbying provincially but hasn’t donated to political parties in records seen by CTV News.
The multinational app’s chief spokesperson, David Plouffe, was in Vancouver last week to speak to the Vancouver Board of Trade. Right now, Uber is not operating in B.C. despite a brief attempt years ago.
“We believe that Vancouverites are clearly underserved and that people deserve access to more reliable transportation options in the city, including more taxis,” said Uber spokesperson Susie Heath. The company spawned more than 5,000 letters to provincial MLAs in a recent advertising push, she said.
Meggs said Plouffe also met with the premier, and said that he believed the consultation process would actually extend until after the next provincial election, which is slated for May 9, 2017.
He said the city is pushing for more wheelchair accessible cabs at the provincial level, but that there is no deadline for that application either.
Rival NPA city councilor Melissa De Genova said this moratorium will be a problem especially in the holiday season, where more Christmas parties will mean more demand.
“The Vancouver Police Department will be stepping up their counterattack and what options will people have? What kind of message does it send that we’re going to limit the way you can get home for the next 12 months?” she asked.