Just how many taxi drivers do we have in this province?
That has to be a question running through the heads of many British Columbians after the B.C. Passenger Transportation Board this week released its rules for ride haling companies in the province. The rules confirm the inordinate amount of clout the B.C. taxi industry wields with provincial governments of all political stripes.
After years of watching the BC Liberal government twiddle their thumbs while the rest of the world got on board with Uber, Lyft and other ride hailing companies, the 2017 provincial election revealed B.C. New Democrats were equally beholden to the taxi industry.
The new rules state that ride hailing companies must adhere to the minimum “flag rate” charged by taxi companies, meaning customers can forget about getting any discounts when they’re trying to get home from a night at the bar. In fact, companies will be allowed to charge “surge pricing” to increase rates during peak times.
This comes after it was announced that B.C. Uber drivers would need a Class 4 licence, unlike most of their counterparts around the world. A Class 4 licence carries a cost of $149.90 as well as a $22.45 fee to re-class your licence. Throw in the hours spent studying to pass your written exam and road test, and that’s a lot of miles to be logged before a driver can even break even.
These restrictive conditions have put a roadblock in front of ride hailing companies operating outside the Lower Mainland. And it’s not like long waits for cabs are exclusive to Greater Vancouver. There have been many reports here in the Capital Region, as well as complaints of passengers being turned away because the fare wasn’t worth the cab driver’s time.
But even these slanted conditions aren’t satisfactory to the taxi industry, who voiced objections to a single operating zone and an unlimited amount of operators for ride hailing companies.
And in case you were wondering. There are currently about 215 taxi licensees operating more than 3,500 taxis in B.C. Who says political strength doesn’t come in small numbers.