Taxi industry forced to join newspapers, record companies in new economy

Uber ride-hailing service and others to operate in B.C. by Christmas

12th and Cambie

News item: The provincial government announces its intention to allow ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft to operate in B.C. by December of this year. Taxi industry to “modernize” and “remain competitive,” says government.


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So, it’s all good then.

Everybody’s onside, competition is a good thing, harmony to be achieved.

Onto the next topic…

Yeah, right.

It’s not exactly a big surprise that the cab industry isn’t at all delighted by Transportation Minister Todd Stone’s announcement March 7 that ride-hailing companies will roll into town before the end of the year.

It’s also not a big surprise that longtime industries — newspapers, record companies, hotels and movie theatres — are having to “modernize” to a changing economy, too.  It hurts, it sucks, it’s unfair. I blame tech nerds, condescending computer know-it-alls and a guy whose name rhymes with Gaul Podfrey.


Two days after the government’s announcement, the Vancouver Taxi Association circulated an “open letter” online that was heavy on the doom and gloom to come under such a new arrangement.

“The government’s proposal will destroy the financial well-being and livelihoods of many immigrant, small business people, who invested in the taxi industry on the basis of the existing regulatory regime,” the letter said. “Now, after going deep in debt, they have had their economic rug pulled out from under them by the government in order to benefit a large multi-national taxi business who has a very poor record in terms of service to customers [eg. surge pricing] and treatment of its employees.”

Those are some pretty serious accusations.

Stone, of course, has an answer for that.

It goes like this: "British Columbians have told us that they want ride-sharing services, and we're moving forward to make it happen. While we're taking action, we know that many people rely on taxis to support themselves and their families. That's why we're making investments to modernize the taxi industry and create a level playing field."

That field includes more taxis, a drop in insurance rates, “fair and transparent pricing,” wider boundaries to pick up and drop off customers, cabbies maintaining exclusive rights to ride-hailing on the streets and the development of a region-wide app where riders can pay fares by smartphone.

Taxi and ride-hailing companies will be responsible for maintaining records that prove all drivers are at least 19, have an unrestricted driver's licence (no graduated licences) and pass a criminal record check and a safe driving record check. Vehicles must pass regular mechanical inspections.

So, it’s all good then.

The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade thinks so. So, of course, does Uber, issuing a statement saying the government’s move was “a step forward.” The San Francisco-based company claims more than 200,000 people have Uber accounts in B.C.

I forgot to ask Mayor Gregor Robertson whether he has an account, but I did remember to ask him whether he blesses the marriage between Uber-type companies and the city’s cab industry.

“Ride-sharing definitely has a place here in the city,” he told me last week after a meeting of the mayors’ council on regional transportation. “We need improved technology. But we need to ensure that the high standard our taxi industry is required to meet is maintained with ride-sharing, too. We don’t want to lower the standards to enable ride-sharing, we just want more and better service.”

I’ll remember that next time I’m waiting and waiting and waiting for a cab while simultaneously listening to music on my phone and reading a great deep-think column by a guy whose name rhymes with Hike Mowell.


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