TransLink Mayors' Council backs intermunicipal licences for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft

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      Surrey mayor Doug McCallum doesn't want Uber or Lyft in his city.

      But his fellow municipal politicians on the TransLink Mayors' Council have endorsed an interim bylaw for ride-hailing companies allowing for an intermunicipal bylaw. 

      And McCallum says it's a good compromise because he believes it offers a level playing field for the taxi industry, which faces greater geographic restrictions than the ride-hailing companies.

      The interim bylaw has a single set of requirements for all municipalities that approve it, including:

      * a $155 per-company fee each year;

      * an additional $150 per vehicle, which would be reduced to $30 for zero-emission vehicles;

      * and no fee for wheelchair-accessible vehicles;

      The City of Vancouver will collect the fees and trip data, which will then be passed along to participating municipalities in Metro Vancouver, as well as the Fraser Valley and Squamish-Lillooet regional districts.

      “The development of the intermunicipal business licence has demonstrated how our region can work collaboratively together,” mayors’ council chair and New Westminster mayor Jonathan Coté said in a news release. “The framework that has been developed gives cities a say in managing our roadways while keeping the application process simple and reasonable. This industry has the potential to improve transportation options in our region, if we take steps to properly manage it.”

      The vote occurred in-camera at the January 30 TransLink Mayors' Council meeting.

      A TransLink spokesperson told the Straight that because the issue was addressed behind closed doors, she didn't know how each member voted.

      TransLink Mayors' Council chair Jonathan Cote says the intermunicipal ride-hailing licence demonstrates how the region can work together collaboratively.

      In addition, the mayors' council wants municipalities to harmonize fees for taxis with those for ride-hailing companies in the recently approved bylaw.

      It's also "urging the provincial government and the Passenger Transportation Board to level the playing field for taxis and ride hailing companies by reviewing taxi boundaries, fleet caps and insurance requirements, and ensuring that a mechanism is put in place to subsidize approved ride-hail vehicles or taxis that provide adequate accessible services for customers who rely on mobility devices such as wheelchairs and scooters".

      Lyft's public policy manager for Western Canada, Sophia Cote, applauded the mayors' council's decision.

      "We want to thank everyone involved, including the province, for their collaboration and support to enable a regional ride-sharing regime," she said in a statement. "We are committed to continuing conversations with all participating municipalities so that we can see the IMBL come into effect, and will work with all relevant stakeholders to ensure the long-term regional approach best serves the needs of the region’s residents and visitors."

      The decision to support an intermunicipal bylaw comes as Uber is seeking a court order to stop the City of Surrey from fining its drivers.

      In a separate legal case, the Vancouver Taxi Association is seeking an injunction to stop Uber and Lyft from operating while the association's legal petition to quash their licences is before B.C. Supreme Court.