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With bus strike looming, Uber says it could launch in 'a few days' if approved
Published Thursday, November 21, 2019 3:52PM PST Last Updated Thursday, November 21, 2019 7:12PM PST
VANCOUVER -- If the passenger transportation board granted Uber a licence right now, the ride-hailing company might be on the road in Metro Vancouver in time for next week’s transit strike.
“If we can get approvals, we can be up and running in a really short time,” said Michael van Hemmen, head of Uber for Western Canada. “We're hoping a couple of days, a few days."
At the request of taxi drivers, the period for input on ride-hailing was extended by three weeks – but that period closed on Tuesday.
“Now it’s decision time,” said van Hemmen.
B.C.'s transportation minister is not willing to try to push the process along, however.
“The Passenger Transportation Board is independent. I think they're fully aware of the appetite for ride hail they're fully aware of the transit strike and they're working through their process,” said Claire Trevena. “It knows we have a strike coming, it has 20 applications across the province from companies that want to offer ride hail.”
When asked if she would be willing to write to the board to ask it to expedite the licenses, Trevena repeated: “The Passenger Transportation Board is working through its processes, it is going to be issuing licences when it’s ready to issue licences.”
Asked about the possibility of intervening on Thursday, Premier John Horgan said he agrees with Trevena's approach.
“I also respect the Passenger Transportation Board taking the time to make sure all parties have a fair hearing,” said Horgan.
The opposition BC Liberals pounced on the issue, saying if the government hadn’t dragged its feet on ride-hailing, it would already be well-established and helpful during a transit strike.
“Clearly the NDP has dropped the ball on this whole thing. There's no mediator in the transit strike, there's no ride share. What are we supposed to do, walk?” asked leader Andrew Wilkinson. “We’ve got a half a million people who are going try and get to work in cars. That’s going be a disaster. If we had ride share, the car load would actually go down on the roads, even in the midst of a strike.”
While van Hemmen says Uber would not be the solution to a transit strike, he added “ride-sharing is one more option to help people get around.”
But unless licences are granted very soon, it won’t be an option during next week’s strike.