An all-part committee on B.C.’s taxi industry and ride-hailing apps like Uber is meeting in Vancouver today (January 9) for the second of three days of hearings.
Yesterday (January 8), the committee’s first day of presentations largely took shape as a debate between the status quo and innovation. It was made clear that ride-hailing is finally on the way but could look different in B.C. compared to other jurisdictions.
Uber public policy manager Michael van Hemmen was in attendance and took questions from MLAs.
Spencer Chandra Herbert, NDP MLA for Vancouver-West End, argued against Uber’s surge-pricing technology, which sees ride fares change on the basis of demand.
Van Hemmen argued that surge pricing—a core feature of Uber—was a positive quality that attracts drivers to areas where customers need them.
Later in the day, B.C. Taxi Association president Mohan Kang acknowledged that British Columbians want more options when it comes to transportation. But he suggested that rather than Uber-led approach, politicians pursue a “made in B.C.” solution.
Kang suggested that could be a single app that offers customers access to existing taxi companies alongside ride-hailing options like Uber and Lyft.
Uber was founded in 2009 and since then has become available in more than 600 cities around the world.
For Uber and other ride-hailing services like Lyft to operate legally in B.C., there are required changes to provincial legislation concerning the taxi industry.
The former Liberal government for years dragged its feet on whether to allow ride-hailing apps. Ahead of the 2017 election, the NDP promised to bring ride-hailing to B.C. by the end of 2017. After taking office, the NDP as well as Green party leader Andrew Weaver got to work on the issue but conceded legislative changes would not happen until sometime in 2018.