They say there are always two sides to every story, but when it comes to the long-standing debate of introducing ridesharing to BC’s transportation methods, multiple faces of the situation emerge. For several years, BC has mulled over allowing popular companies such as Uber or Lyft into our current transportation system, as taxi or other public transportation is simply not meeting the needs of the public. As taxis become more expensive and less reliable, people are opting for alternatives which will allow them to get to their specific destinations in time and at an economically-friendly cost.
This is where ridesharing and companies such as Uber step in. The idea of having service just minutes from wherever you are, and being given the power to choose the car size, wait time and price of your ride is very appealing. Companies such as Lyft are already looking forward to working with Vancouver. Aaron Zifkin, managing director of Canada for Lyft, believes that “Vancouver is a great fit for Lyft, and we are working with the BC Government to bring ridesharing to the province as soon as possible.” He goes on to say that the “process of building a team in anticipation of an eventual launch has already begun.”
A lot of progress is being made to offer ridesharing starting September 2019, as reported by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure of BC. “We recognize the frustrations that people have – particularly in Metro Vancouver. That is why we are taking the first steps in our action plan to bring ridesharing to BC,” said the statement from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Many people are still quite upset that this process is not being implemented quicker, as talk of companies including Uber launching in Vancouver date back to early 2017. However, the Ministry responds by saying, “We acknowledge that it is taking longer than anticipated to create the regulatory structure and insurance that will allow ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft to enter the BC market. [However], we have a responsibility to get things done right.” Some of the things on their agenda include passing legislation this Fall, which would encompass regulations on consumer safety, boundaries, streamlining license applications for drivers, and overall passenger safety by both the vehicle and the driver.
While the struggle for when and how to pass ridesharing regulations continues, there are those who do not believe in the concept altogether. Many people may agree that BC’s current options for taxi service and public transport are simply not enough to meet the demands of growing cities such as Metro Vancouver, but some believe that ridesharing may not be the correct solution. For instance, a website called, Who’s Driving You, has been keeping track of all news reports involving assaults, attacks or other mishaps with Uber and Lyft. This brings us to a very important question: How exactly will these companies promote safety in our city? Now, it cannot go unnoted that taxis around Vancouver and the rest of the province have had their own fair share of unsafe encounters, but if additional companies are introduced, the possibilities of more unsafe acts happening through transportation is bound to increase.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure does understand this dilemma, and thus reassures us by saying, “We are also putting 500 more taxis on the streets (300 in Metro Vancouver and 200 to the rest of the province). Our approach will modernize the taxi industry and help meet current demand, while opening the door to other vehicles for hire – so people can move around how they want, when they want, safely.”
With a similar end goal of providing an integrative transportation structure, a unique and upcoming alternative has been presented by a company called Kater, founded by Monark Group and based in South Surrey, BC. “Kater is looking to unite with people and work in collaboration with the BC Taxi Association (BCTA) and Vancouver Taxi Association (VTA) to provide a solution where everyone is happy and the province is not ending up with extra congestion on the road,” says Operations Manager Mandi Mangat.
To come up with an idea, the team at Kater worked tirelessly to conduct research and genuinely understand the implications of existing rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft. “We found that they have a set of issues of their own that come forth once these companies are introduced to the public system, such as strikes, shortage of jobs for the taxi industry, and many more, which we do not think makes them as viable of an option as something that can take everyone’s needs into consideration while producing a local solution,” points out Mangat. For instance, places such as London and New York have had many negative impacts on their general public when it came to Uber or Lyft, such as an increase of traffic and wait times rather than the decrease that was expected.
Kater is working to pass a regulation which will allow them to offer a comprehensive app that will integrate many of the local transportation options such as taxis, multiple ridesharing options, and will even have public bus and skytrain schedules so that people are able to compare their options before choosing the right one for them. With their focus being customer service and with the thorough investigation on taxis and other transportation methods, Mandi is confident that despite their team being “a third party company coming in with a new concept, the public will eventually realize the amount of effort that has been put in to research all of the possible implications of different methods, and how this solution is fitting to suit everyone’s needs.”
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s commitment to meeting the needs of both worlds, along with companies such as Kater give us a ray of hope. They show us that we can approach the issue of transportation as a united front, and be mindful of bringing forth a solution which will both benefit the economy and the people waiting to make use of the new resources that will be available to them.