No cap on ride hailing fleet sizes, says Passenger Transportation Board

The Passenger Transportation Board announced Monday there will be no initial limits on fleet size for ride-hailing companies, but a cap could be imposed later if congestion becomes an issue. 

In a teleconference call, board chair Catherine Read said with the Class 4 licence requirement, it could take transportation network services, like Uber and Lyft, time to build up their fleets. 

She says the PTB will set the minimum rate a transportation network service may charge based on taxi flag rates, explaining that the base rate for most taxis is between $3.25 to $3.95 and that will also be the minimum rate ride-hailing companies can charge. 

"If a passenger thinks the fare is too high, they can take a taxi or alternative transportation," Read said in the teleconference. 

Ride hailing companies will also have larger operating areas.

The Lower Mainland-Whistler region will include all of Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and Squamish-Lillooet.

She said it's required under their business model because there's a large pool of drivers and passengers who use an app to set and collect fares. 

Read said this is something suburban taxi companies based in Surrey and the rest of Metro Vancouver aren't pleased with.

"They're not happy with it because they're restricted to their existing boundaries," Read said. 

In a statement, Lyft B.C. general manager Peter Lukomskyj, said while the company appreciates the PTB establishing municipal boundaries, it is still disappointed the regulations didn't establish similar all-province boundaries.

"Our vision is to one day offer our proven transportation network throughout the province, but the Class 4 commercial licensing requirement will make it more difficult for us to deliver the reliable ridesharing service B.C. residents have been requesting for years," said Lukomskyj. 

Richard Vogel/Associated Press

Rideshare Now B.C. spokesperson Ian Tostenson said these rules are a step in the right direction, because the companies wouldn't be able to operate otherwise. 

"What we know from our research is that the consumer wants the convenience, and they're quite happy with the same reference price as taxis. They just want to be able to get a ride. That's the most important thing," said Tostenson over the phone. 

Other rules implemented by the PTB include ride hailing companies operating in Vancouver not being allowed to pick up passengers in the immediate vicinity around Canada Place on cruise ship days. 

Lukomskyj said the company is pleased that large geographic regions were taken into account."

"We are committed to B.C. and will continue to work with the PTB and the Province to create the conditions for us to bring Lyft to the Lower Mainland before the end of the year and to more regions throughout B.C. in the future."

The CBC reached out to Uber but it is not commenting and said it is taking time to review the PTB regulations. 

Legislation will come into effect Sept. 3, 2019, when the board will begin to accept applications. The remaining parts of the act come into effect Sept. 16.