After a long wait, ride sharing is apparently coming to B.C. – Vancouver, anyway – this fall.
For a city the size of Vancouver, it is uber disappointing to discover that ride sharing is still not available here, seven years after Uber first began operating in Canada.
The lack of service is an embarrassment to the city, which otherwise is a leader, not a laggard, in the sharing economy. Vancouver is known as the car-sharing capital of North America, being the only city on this continent to surpass 200,000 members in car2go, now called Share Now.
The city is also home to Evo, Modo, and Zipcar, to name a few of the options for environmentally-conscious Vancouverites who can’t or don’t want to own their own vehicle. As tree huggers and lovers of nature, we are a natural constituency for services that allow us to get to where we’re going, while leaving a lighter footprint. There are formal car-pooling options too, where members catch rides with each other between cities, such as Vancouver to Whistler for a day of skiing.
So why not Uber or Lyft? Vancouver may wear the shame, but it’s the provincial governments that own the blame. The legislation to regulate ride sharing falls under provincial jurisdiction.
Instead of getting it done, which the previous Liberal government failed to do, the NDP government has spent the past year and a half fighting about how to regulate ride sharing. It’s not like B.C. has to reinvent the wheel; Uber operates in more than 780 cities. It’s a household name, even to those who have never used the app-based service. It’s so ubiquitous, business schools teach courses called the Uber Economy.
Meanwhile the provincial government, which promises we will have ride sharing services by the end of the year, is still idling on the issue – and Vancouver’s taxi problem gets worse.
Calgary, where I lived before moving to Vancouver last year, went through this very challenge. I once waited for hours after a house party one Christmas for a taxi that never showed up. Eventually one of the guests sobered up enough to take me home.
How things have changed in Cowtown thanks to the arrival of Uber. I was there a few weeks ago during Stampede, the other time of the year when a cab sighting was about as common as a blue moon or UFO. Not this year. I never waited more than three minutes for either an Uber or a taxi. In one instance, the Uber I ordered in line at Starbucks arrived before my coffee.
Cab drivers I spoke with told me ride sharing in Calgary has made their industry better, forcing the major taxi companies to invest in technology and answer their phones. (During the worst of Calgary’s cab crisis, companies refused to hire enough dispatchers to answer the phones, irking both consumers – who couldn’t get their order through – and drivers, who sat idle waiting to be dispatched.)
The latest arguing between the ride sharing companies and the province is over requiring drivers to have a commercial licence.
The provincial government says nothing short of a Class 4 licence will do. Uber and Lyft say it’s a dealbreaker. But Alberta has the same requirement, as does New York City. Ride sharing services operate successfully in both jurisdictions.
It’s now long past time to get moving and give us what everyone else has had for nearly a decade – ride sharing. Put the rules in place and let the free market decide.
My hope is the market will decide correctly, and give us ride sharing in time for the busy Christmas party season.
Paula Arab is a Vancouver-based media strategist and writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org