The British Columbia government is introducing a series of improvements to make the taxi industry more competitive as ride-sharing services are allowed to operate in the province by the year’s end.
“British Columbians have told us that they want ride-sharing services, and we are moving forward to make it happen,” Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, said in a statement on March 7.
Peter Fassbender, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development and Minister Responsible for TransLink, said that conversations with taxi companies and drivers over the past year have indicated a need to ensure fairness so that they can compete effectively with ride-sharing providers. “This is why we have worked so hard to develop these measures,” he said, “which reflects what I heard through extensive consultations and will allow ride-sharing companies to operate, but also allows the taxi industry to be competitive.”
According to the statement from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the province will invest up to $1 million to help the taxi industry develop an app with the capability of shared dispatch, so that members of the public can hail and pay for a taxi with a Smartphone in the same way that they would for a ride-sharing service. The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) will invest up to $3.5 million to install crash-avoidance technology in all taxis, streamline the claims process and work with the cab industry to make their insurance more flexible and cost-effective. Depending on the number of kilometres driven, these savings could hover in the range of 25 per cent.
Other changes that the provincial government plans to make include the following: working with municipal governments and the taxi industry to remove red tape and overlap within the system; retain the exclusive rights of taxis to be hired by phone, at a taxi stand or flagged down at the curb; and address the current shortage of cabs to provide more choice, accessibility and opportunity for both consumers and drivers. The province will also work with municipalities and other stakeholders to allow all drivers, including taxi operators, the same access to provide services across municipal boundaries.
The same safety standards will also apply to both taxis and ride-sharing providers. Class 4 licences will be phased out for taxi drivers, and taxi and ride-sharing companies will be responsible for maintaining records to prove that all drivers have an unrestricted driver’s licence, are at least 19 years old and have passed criminal-record and safe-driving record checks and to ensure that vehicles have passed regular mechanical inspections.
Starting in the summer, the provincial government will seek additional input from taxi drivers, ride-sharing and taxi industries, police, airports, municipalities, ICBC and RoadSafetyBC.