After years and years (and years) of public debate, endless consultations with the taxi industry, and two different premiers promising they would be available soon, ride-hailing apps like Lyft and Uber are finally—finally—coming to Vancouver.
“The City of Vancouver is ready to license ride-hailing companies so they can get on the road and serve residents, businesses and visitors,” a December 2 media release reads. “The City’s ride hailing regulations were put in place to ensure that Vancouver can experience the advantages of ride-hailing as soon as companies obtain a Provincial TNS licence from the Passenger Transportation Board. Once the Provincial licence is issued, companies can obtain a municipal business licence from the City.”
So we’re not quite there yet.
First, Uber, Lyft, and their smaller competitors need to secure operating licences from B.C.’s provincial government. Then they need to secure operating licences from the city of Vancouver.
Then, of course, there are a couple of fees these companies have to pay. The city’s business licence for ride-hailing companies costs $155 annually plus $100 annually for every vehicle they put on the road.
“City staff are already working closely with ride-hailing companies to ready their business licence applications for quick processing, and aim to issue a municipal business licence within three days of receiving a complete application,” the city’s release continues.
In addition, once ride-hailing companies have the provincial and municipal licences required, individual drivers in B.C. who want to work for Uber and Lyft—not directly but as independent contractors, of course—have to jump through a couple of extra hoops that drivers in other jurisdictions do not.
Last summer, the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced that B.C. residents will not be allowed to drive for Uber or Lyft simply by downloading an app. Instead, drivers will be required to obtain a Class 4 licence and undergo criminal-records and driver-records checks.
Lyft Canada managing director Aaron Zifkin has expressed befuddlement about this requirement.
"Lyft does not currently operate ride-sharing in any jurisdiction that requires drivers to change their driver’s licence to a commercial driver’s licence," he said last July.
The city’s December 3 release also notes there are still a few kinks to work out before ride-hailing services can operate seamlessly across the Metro Vancouver region.
“The City supports the concept of an integrated regional approach and continues to work with other municipalities toward inter-municipal business licensing for ride-hailing companies to operate throughout the Lower Mainland,” the city of Vancouver’s release adds. “Until then, Vancouver’s municipal licence ensures ride-hailing vehicles will be on the road in Vancouver without further delay for residents.”
UberX (the transport service that most people just call "Uber") has been available in other North American cities since 2012.