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The ride hailing hot potato

Another year, another missed target date for services like Uber and Lyft in BC.
Not yet.

It’s been over two years since we were originally promised ride hailing would be operational in B.C. cities. In May of 2017, right before the provincial election, now-Premier John Horgan promised we would have Uber and Lyft in time to bring us home from New Year’s Eve parties that same year.

That’s two years’ worth of bureaucracy and political hot potato. Now, they’re talking about an interim business license that “could” be in place by the end of January, that would tide us over until the permanent license can be implemented.

Earlier this month, the Metro Vancouver’s Mayors’ Council voted in favour of a regional business licence for ride hailing services instead of individual municipal licences cities had been working on previously. It took them two years to figure this out, and only happened after the Province threatened to step in.

The latest from the Passenger Transportation Board is that they will decide on licenses for ride-hailing companies by the end of December. That promise sounds all too familiar. And while I sincerely wish it would happen, I’m not holding my breath.

Taxi drivers are still fighting hard to keep out ride sharing, with the Vancouver Taxi Association writing the Board alleging that Uber and Lyft are illegally exploiting their drivers.

A few weeks ago, I was at a networking dinner. The topic was the future of transportation and of course, everyone wanted to know from some of the people on the inside when ride hailing would actually be here. Tyla Flexman, Lyft Canada’s senior manager of partnerships, said while there’s a lot of work being done behind the scenes…really at this point our guesses were as good as hers.

Lyft has created partnerships with Live Nation, Cadillac Fairview, Vancouver Canucks and Mastercard, among others, their logo fills almost every bus stop shelter and ads are playing on TV. They also just recently announced their pricing while Uber and others are keeping a much lower profile, waiting for an official decision to make an announcement.

In Vancouver, the absence of ride-sharing options is especially jarring. Almost every time I’m at the airport I find myself informing someone’s who’s just landed that, no, they can’t actually call an Uber. After missing so many self-imposed deadlines, still not having ride-hailing available for family gatherings, corporate Christmas parties and safe and reliable rides home, is a massive failure for the provincial government.

Ada Slivinski is the Founder & Principal of Jam PR, a boutique agency focused on helping small businesses get big exposure. You can reach her at [email protected]