Residents across B.C. may be able to access ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft by fall 2019, but local cab companies on the Peninsula aren’t exactly celebrating.
“We’re not looking forward to them showing up,” says Don Smith, operations manager at Peninsula Taxi. “Our concern is unless the legislation doesn’t give everyone the same playing field, it’s not going to be very good.”
Transportation Minister Claire Trevena tabled a bill Monday to introduce ride-hailing services calling it “milestone legislation.”
“British Columbians absolutely want more options and flexibility in how they get around, but with checks in place to make sure their ride is a safe one,” Trevena said.
But, Smith has concerns. His company is required to operate with a minimum of $5 million liability insurance and all drivers must possess a class four licence, complete detailed driver and medical exams as well as submit to criminal record checks.
As well, the Passenger Transportation Board – an independent tribunal – regulates the taxi industry in B.C. deciding how many cabs a given company can have on the road.
Smith says he is currently awaiting the result of an application Peninsula Taxi has filed to increase the number of vehicles they operate by 15 per cent.
Currently, the company operates 117 taxis providing service throughout Greater Victoria.
In a release, the province said part of the legislation would include “strengthening” the board’s authority “to determine fares, vehicle supply and operating areas.”
It also states drivers will be required to undergo criminal checks and possess a class four licence, despite ride-hailing companies asking for class five requirements – the licence given a typical B.C. driver.
“The bottom line is that this comes down to customer service,” says Cecil Davies, general manager of Sidney Taxi.
The six-vehicle fleet will take you “anywhere you want to go in B.C.” but mainly serves a small but strong client base in the region.
He predicts his company will “take a bit of a hit” when people experiment with ride-hailing services, but thinks the bulk of the business will take place in the Lower Mainland where larger cab companies monopolize the roads.
“It will be more damaging to the companies that have ignored customer service for many years,” he says. “They’ve built up a lot of dislike from the general public. They’re going to be the main target.”
Still, Davies thinks the competition will be good for business, as long as ride-hailing companies “jump through the same hoops we do.”
“I like the concept,” he says. “I think it’s a great idea but it needs to be regulated. If they’re going to come in like they do in other cities and undercut, that would be very damaging to us.”