Months-long wait for $191K taxi report another ride-hailing delay: critics
A consultant’s report on the taxi industry that was delayed by several months, costing taxpayers nearly $200,000, is another unfortunate example of the province lagging behind other jurisdictions in bringing in ride-hailing companies such as Uber, according to a Green Party MLA.
Adam Olsen said he’s been pushing British Columbia's government to give taxi riders options to reduce delays – but the deadline keeps moving back.
“We should have implemented ride-hailing in this province years ago. To hire a contractor to help the taxi industry be more competitive – that’s the industry’s job. Is it necessary? It happened. Is it an expense we could have curtailed? It probably is,” Olsen told CTV News.
Olsen was referring to a contract obtained by CTV News through a freedom of information request.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure inked a deal with analyst Dan Hara to “provide consultation services with the taxi industry, local government, and related stakeholders,” and follow up with a report due December 31, 2017.
Hara and his colleagues were to charge $1,600 a day to a maximum of $165,000.
But the contract was updated in June to extend the deadline to Dec. 31, 2018. The cost went up by $26,000 to $191,000, the document shows. The report was released publicly in July.
Transportation Minister Claire Trevena told CTV News the work was well done and will move B.C. towards opening its doors to ride-hailing.
“Dr. Hara is a professional. He’s an expert in the field. That’s why we hired him,” she said. “He had a contract with the government for work we are happy with which will really advance our position to introduce ride hailing next year.”
Reached at his Ottawa office, Hara told CTV News he believed it’s better that the government pay than the taxi industry, because it would provide a more independent take.
“The government is looking for an unbiased report,” he said. “If the industry had paid for it, there would be criticism of it.”
Each taxi license holder in Vancouver stands to get about $5,000 a month when leasing its right to operators, he said.
The Passenger Transportation Board, which manages the supply of taxis in B.C., is expected to release a report on Wednesday that outlines how it will increase the taxi supply by about 15 per cent, or 500 taxis, with 300 extra in the Lower Mainland.
The agency will also allow taxis to provide discounted fares at off-peak hours, said Catharine Read, the PTB Chair, at a session at the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
There are several companies who have started to do ride-hailing already, and their drivers are already facing fines. However, there are only four officers in B.C. tasked with ticketing them.
“We have enforcement to ensure the law is obeyed,” Trevena said. “That will continue to be my priority.”
Olsen said that he hoped four officers would be enough – but if it’s not, it shows how strong the market is for ride-hailing services.
“If four is not enough, that tells you what kind of demand there is for alternative transportation services,” Olsen said.