City wants Uber regulated the same way as taxi industry

The City of Victoria is ready to welcome ride-sharing services, but only if it’s regulated the same way the taxi industry is.

The City of Victoria is ready to welcome ride-sharing services such as Uber, but only if it’s on a level playing field and regulated the same way the taxi industry is.

Council voted unanimously to write a letter to Communities Minister Peter Fassbender supporting the regulation of ride share services in a manner consistent with taxis in the province and request that the province modernize the regulatory framework of the taxi industry.

“I want Uber in Victoria, I want Uber in British Columbia. I really think this needs to be a provincial initative and then when the province decides what it’s going to do, we simply follow suit with every other municipality in British Columbia,” said Mayor Lisa Helps, adding she’s not sure the last time the taxi industry had an overhaul.

“It’s completely outdated in terms of getting with the 21st century, digital and the services that people require. I think there’s room for taxis. I think there’s room for Uber. We want to indicate there’s room for Uber, but there’s also a huge amount of room to modernize the taxis industry so that Uber and the taxi industry don’t look all that different, but again, that’s the province’s domain.”

Recently, Fassbender asked municipalities across the province to provide feedback on ride-sharing services.

Ride share is an Internet-based car share service, such as Uber and Lyft, offering an alternative to conventional taxi services that connects drivers and passengers through an app and negotiate a price for the ride. Although there is no ride share currently operating in Victoria, Uber has applied for a business licence for an office in the city and  conducted information sessions regarding driver recruitment.

Coun. Ben Isitt believes there’s technically room for ride-sharing services in the local economy, but said it may not be “desirable” as it creates competition with taxi companies and could put some taxi drivers out of work.

“This is a multi-national organization that sucks wealth out of whatever jurisdiction happens to let it operate within its borders,” he said. “The reason people are turning their cars into taxicabs is because the economy doesn’t work for them and there’s no normal jobs left to support them . . . this whole sharing economy shows how our economy is broken.”

For many councillors, the issue of safety is a concern. Coun. Marianne Alto hopes the province will review and monitor drivers to ensure standards of quality of care, service and vehicle on a regular basis.