Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena has laid out a detailed approach to legalize ride-hailing by next fall in British Columbia.
Under the Passenger Transportation Amendment Act, eight pieces of legislation are slated to be amended, including two dealing with insurance, three dealing with local government, and the Motor Vehicle Act, Commercial Transport Act, and Passenger Transportation Act.
If the legislation passes, ICBC will have authority to develop new insurance products for "passenger-directed vehicles", or PDVs. This term will apply to all vehicles for hire, including taxis.
All drivers of PDVs will require a Class 4 licence and have to undergo criminal record checks.
There will be no need for drivers to obtain municipal chauffeur permits in each city where they operate.
"This is milestone legislation that gets ride-hailing right for B.C.,” Trevena said. “British Columbians absolutely want more options and flexibility in how they get around, but with checks in place to make sure their ride is a safe one.”
The term transportation network services, or TNS, will be used to describe apps and other means to facilitate ride-hailing.
Maximum fines for licensees for administrative penalties will rise from $1,500 to $50,000; maximum fines for offences will rise from $5,000 to $100,000 for corporations or limited liability companies.
In addition, there will be a per-trip fee to fund travel options for people with disabilities. And the government promises that people will not be left stranded when travelling between municipalities.
According to a news release, the legislation incorporates "a new, data-driven approach to improve taxi service and ride-hailing opportunities, particularly at high-demand locations and peak times, by strengthening the Passenger Transportation Board's authority to determine fares, vehicle supply and operating areas".
Local governments can determine the types of vehicles, business-licence requirements, and location of taxi stands, but the legislation restricts their power to limit the supply of vehicles after applications have been approved by the provincial board.
Taxi licensees will be allowed to increase their fleet size "to operate single-shift cars".
"With these legislative changes, government expects applications from ride-hailing companies wanting to enter the market will be submitted to the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) by fall 2019," the government said in a news release.
The regulations pursuant to the legislative amendments will be reviewed by a new legislative committee.
Following the announcement, Lyft issued a statement expressing concerns about what's being proposed.
The San Francisco-based company declared that "the regulatory structure that would enable true ridesharing has yet to be seen an it is unfortunate that British Columbians will be without ridesharing for yet another year"
The B.C. Liberals also took aim at the legislation, saying that the proposed rules and regulations "will make it impossible for ridesharing to exist in British Columbia".
"We can now expect another holiday season without ridesharing,” leader Andrew Wilkinson said in a news release. “Another season of British Columbians stuck out in the cold waiting for a ride home is unacceptable. The previous government had the framework in place in 2017 but the NDP have insisted they know best and kicked the can down the road to maybe 2020.”
B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver, on the other hand, called the NDP government's ride-hailing legislation a "step forward".
But he also criticized both the NDP and B.C. Liberals for failing to address this issue in a timely manner.
“It’s important that the legislation and regulations strike the right balance so that the province meets its responsibility to ensure public safety and a fair playing field for business while also providing British Columbians with access to the full range of modern transportation options," Weaver said in a party news release. "We have questions about the timeline; although it’s encouraging that ride-hailing companies will be able to apply for licenses by Fall 2019, what British Columbians really want to know is when they will be able to access their services."