Illegal ride-hailing businesses continue to operate in B.C., and the chair of the Transportation Passenger Board (TSB) says there's not much that can be done about it.
"Tracking these people down is very difficult and is viewed as a slap on the wrist when they are caught," said chair Catharine Read.
Read said that enforcement is the responsibility of the Passenger Transportation Branch, and they only have four enforcement officers for the entire province.
"When they do charge someone with illegal ridesharing, it is viewed often as just the cost of doing business, because the costs are not very large," she said.
"We talk to the branch regularly about that ... there should be more enforcement," she said.
Drivers operating unlicensed commercial transit can face fines of $1,150 per day.
"I heard the gasp in the room, saying there's only four inspection officers around, and we clearly need more," he said.
"They're clearly marketing to a certain group. They're also doing it to stay under the radar because not everyone speaks Chinese ... it's awful because it's totally unregulated."
Government defends work
Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the government was looking at increasing staffing.
"We're obviously looking at how we can build up enforcement. This is a huge issue for the province … where we can build it up, we try to build it up," she said.
Increasing resources for enforcement was one of Dan Hara's recommendations, in his recent report to the government on whether it could transition to ride-hailing while modernizing the taxi industry.
The report cost the government $191,000, a figure Trevena defended.
"I think Dr. Hara is a professional. He's an expert in the field. He's experienced, and that's why we hired him."
More cabs coming soon
Comments on ride-hailing enforcement came on the same day Read announced the TSB was moving forward this week on a number of recommendations from the Hara report.
Taxi companies can start applying to increase the number of vehicles they operate by 15 per cent, which could add 500 more cabs in the province (300 of which would be in the Lower Mainland).
In addition, companies can start developing models that would provide discounted fares during off-peak hours — though they can only go into effect after Sept. 1, 2019.
"The reason we approved the recommendation is it does allow taxi companies to compete with ride hailing companies," said Read.
"There is concern about implementing this before ridesharing, because you could find some destructive competition."
The provincial government is expected to introduce legislation this fall that will allow ridehailing companies to legally operate in late 2019. Jang said he was hopeful the measures taken by the government would give people needing rides more choice, while protecting those who already work in the taxi industry.
"The taxi companies are coming around to the idea that hey don't have the monopoly anymore, that there's a different way of doing business. I think giving them some flexibility has been a big help," he said.
"It's a step in the right direction in preparation for ride share."
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