It won’t be too much longer before British Columbians can finally using their smartphone to hail an Uber.
B.C. transportation minister Todd Stone made that announcement at a press conference today (March 7) that was heavy on talk about the taxi industry.
Cab companies are getting $1 million from the government to upgrade technology, and restrictions on where taxis can operate will be eased, among other changes.
In exchange, provincial regulations will be updated to allow for Uber, Lyft, and other ride-hailing services to operate in B.C.
“Make no mistake about it,” Stone said, “ride sharing is coming to British Columbia in time for the holiday season in 2017. But we are going to take this next nine months to continue to make sure that we get the details right.”
Responding to a reporter’s question, Peter Fassbender, the minister responsible for Translink, said it will still be another nine months before the new rules are in place because the government is continuing to consult with the taxi industry and other stakeholders.
“When we started this, we made a commitment to the taxi industry, to drivers, to various other organizations, that we were going to do it right,” he said. “We’ve seen the cases in markets where they’ve opened it up without any real look at what the implications are. We feel it is really important to give one other opportunity to the taxi industry, to other stakeholders, over the next number of months, to really take a look at the details. And if there are issues that we have not been looking at so far, that they bring up that haven’t been considered, we want to take the time to make sure we do it right.”
The world’s largest ride-hailing service, Uber, has operated in jurisdictions such as San Francisco since 2010.
The company responded to today's news with a brief statement posted on its website.
"From Vancouver to Victoria, Kelowna to Prince George, British Columbians want and need access to more safe, affordable, reliable transportation options across the province." it reads. "Today’s announcement is a step forward by the provincial government and we’re encouraging all parties in British Columbia to commit to bringing forward progressive regulations that embrace ridesharing in 2017."