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Not just a big city issue: The Price is Right on ridesharing

It’s common to hear calls for ridesharing in Vancouver – but as Bob Price discovers, the Interior also wants to get on board
Jonathan Weiss /

As Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian says, "Let's just get with the times."

Christian and several Interior municipal leaders are feeling frustrated by the B.C. government's ongoing ridesharing roadblocks.

Yes, ridesharing isn't just a Metro Vancouver or Victoria discussion.

It's a provincewide issue, and mayors such as Ken Christian and Kelowna's Colin Basran have had it.

"I don't know who they think they're fooling," says Christian, noting that mobile networks are already miles ahead of government.

"Kids are dedicating themselves as the D.D. (designated driver) every night for money in Kamloops right now."

The underlying theme behind calls for ridesharing is the fact that consumers should have as much choice and convenience in transportation options as possible. While some of these calls are motivated by personal experiences, others are looking to ensure that visitors from around the world have access to the transportation they expect.

While ridesharing has evolved quickly around the world, B.C.'s current government is apparently intent on recreating the wheel. While studying past studies, the Horgan government's latest plan is to take another year to prepare ICBC insurance for ridesharing products.

With Green Party support, the New Democrats have developed several barriers including restrictions on supply (number of cars), boundaries, fare guidelines, and a requirement that drivers have a Class 4 license.

In response to government claims that proposed regulations are all about safety, Christian suspects that Transportation Minister Claire Trevena has never used Uber:

"People aren't stupid. They aren't going to jump into somebody's old rattletrap without complaining to the company that this wasn't a satisfactory ride.”

Speaking of safety, Basran and Christian cite several examples of young people waiting for hours to get home from the bar.

"What I worry about is these kids will only wait for so long before they mistakenly believe that they are okay to drive," says Christian.

By comparison, Uber officials say their average wait time in other parts of Canada is about five minutes. B.C. is the only province in Canada without ridesharing – and Vancouver is the largest city in North America without the service.

There is, however, the taxi industry side of this debate. While Kelowna has 97 officially licensed cabs, Kamloops has approximately 75. City officials, however, will tell you that the actual number on the road is nowhere close to that – and that complaints about extreme waiting times are common.

"All we want is a level playing field," says Kami Cabs manager Simar Singh. He stresses that cabs face four to five inspections per year, and the number of cars on the road is governed by the Passenger Transportation Board.

Echoing the taxi industry’s calls for a level playing field, the opposition BC Liberals recently unveiled their vision for ridesharing which includes standardized licensing, safety, enforcement and consumer protection requirements, and removing boundary restrictions and local government power to impose restrictive requirements.

Making ridesharing a reality in this province seems like common sense. But since when did common sense have anything to do with government?

Hitchin' a ride...Don't know where to go.

As always, I welcome your comments on twitter: @kammornanchor

Bob Price is a veteran B.C. broadcaster who anchored the morning news on CHNL radio in Kamloops for the past 30 years. Bob is also a past Webster Award winner whose previous stops included Vancouver and Calgary.