Transportation Minister Claire Trevena announced Monday that the B.C. NDP government is hiring an Ottawa-based consultant to study ride sharing, a hot political issue for urban areas as unregulated smartphone services have already started operating in Metro Vancouver.
Trevena said the report by consultant Dan Hara is expected by next spring, and will guide the government’s next moves. During last spring’s election campaign, Premier John Horgan promised ride sharing by the end of 2017, but Trevena said it is a complicated issue with differences around the province.
Trevena indicated that a framework to allow services like Uber and Lyft to operate in B.C. will be in place by the end of 2018. She said she is aware of the demand by urban communities to open up the system because taxis have not provided sufficient service.
Trevena said she had not read Hara’s previous report on ride sharing, done for the City of Vancouver in 2015. A system that works for communities like Campbell River and Quesnel as well as Vancouver is needed, she said.
B.C. Liberal transportation critic Jordan Sturdy said the NDP is breaking an election promise to deliver ride sharing by the end of 2017.
“There’s an assessment, a study, evidently by a gentleman who’s already done a study on exactly this issue, to be delivered some time in the spring, with a potential for legislation next fall,” Sturdy said.
Trevena said there are six pieces of provincial legislation governing the taxi busines, some dating back to the 1920s. B.C. also has a Passenger Transportation Board that administers taxi licences.
Introduction of Uber, Lyft and similar mobile phone-based services has been a divisive political issue, as both the B.C. Liberal government and the NDP have struggled with how to licence the new technology while protecting the taxi industry.
The B.C. Green Party has been demanding action and the other parties stress the need for a “level playing field” with taxi companies who have big investments in vehicle and dispatch systems.