Uber and Lyft landed at YVR bright and early Friday morning as ride-hailing officially went live in Metro Vancouver, but didn’t quite make it to B.C. Ferries terminals.
Vancouver was the first to issue business licences to the ride-hailing giants within mere hours of the announcement that their applications to the B.C. Passenger Transportation Board had been approved Thursday, with Richmond close behind with an approval for Lyft.
“We have licence agreements in place with Uber and Lyft and they have been operating (at the airport) since this morning,” said Andrew Grams, director of parking and ground transportation services at YVR. “They have already completed pickups and dropoffs at the airport and we are quite excited to get this going.”
Grams said YVR welcomes ride-hailing as a complement to existing ground transportation at the airport, and has set aside three specific areas for Uber and Lyft pickups, two in the arrivals area of the main terminal and one at the south terminal.
B.C. Ferries’ Horseshoe Bay and Tsawwassen terminals, however, show up just outside the maps of operating areas for the companies, said Deborah Marshall, executive director of public affairs for the corporation, although it would welcome the service.
“We think it is a positive for our customers,” Marshall said.
At launch, the number of drivers companies will be able to put on the road will probably be the bigger limiting factor on where companies operate, said Ian Tostenson, CEO of the Uber- and Lyft-sponsored industry group Ride Share Now.
“They’re simply not going to launch into a municipality if they’re not confident they can deliver the service,” Tostenson said.
Lyft in particular drew limited boundaries for its operations within the City of Vancouver itself.
As both firms took their first steps to roll out ride-hailing Friday, most municipalities were on board with allowing the services, although the launch fell just ahead of a regional attempt to establish an inter-municipal business licence through the TransLink Mayors’ Council.
Vancouver was the first to issue business licences to Uber and Lyft within mere hours of the announcement that their applications to the B.C. Passenger Transportation Board had been approved Thursday.
By Friday morning, however, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum repeated his adamant opposition to the services while they have an “unfair advantage” over taxi companies.
“Until I am assured that a level playing field is established, I will not be supporting the issuing of ride-hailing business licences,” McCallum said in a statement Friday, although it is unclear whether his refusal to accept the decision of the Passenger Transportation Board will have much force.
Provincial changes to passenger transportation regulations last fall allow municipalities to issue business licences, set licence requirements and regulate where taxis and ride-hailing vehicles can pick up and drop off passengers.
However, under the regulations, municipalities cannot prohibit ride-hailing services, referred to as “passenger directed vehicles,” from operating in municipalities or restrict the number of such vehicles that operate in a municipality.
“The Passenger Transportation Board has sole authority with respect to the supply and operating area for (passenger directed vehicles),” the regulations read.
Otherwise, municipalities are either willing to issue licences to ride-hailing operators under their existing regimens for taxi licensing, or not adding any requirements until the Mayors’ Council completes its work to draft a licence, which is expected by Jan. 31.
Mayors’ Council chairman Jonathon Coté said adopting such a licence “would be a high priority for cities” to approve the licence, but timing will still be up to them.
“For me, the most common-sense thing is to say, ‘OK, you can operate in the community and you’re not going to have to jump through a whole bunch of municipal red tape and hoops that at the end of the day are not going to be there once we’ve got the regional licence,’” said Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West.
Coquitlam, Port Moody, and both the City of North Vancouver and District of North Vancouver maintain similar positions.
Both Burnaby and Richmond said that in the interim, they would licence ride-hailing under their existing taxi regimens, which Lyft has done for Richmond said the city’s communications manager Adam Clay, but not Uber.
Transportation services with agreements to operate at YVR must also have business licences with the city, but Clay said there might have been a misunderstanding with Uber. He said the company hadn’t made an application for a licence, but had been in touch with city officials Friday.
— with files from Nick Eagland and Jennifer Saltman