Uber coverage area. (Uber image)

South Surrey/White Rock residents snubbed on ride-hailing services

Lyft and Uber express plan to expand to peninsula once enough drivers are available

While people from a number of Metro Vancouver municipalities celebrate the long-awaited arrival of ride-hailing services Lyft and Uber, Semiahmoo Peninsula residents have been left out in the cold – for now, at least.

A map outlining service areas shows that Uber doesn’t operate south of Highway 10 in Surrey, and Lyft doesn’t operate outside of Vancouver and Vancouver International Airport. Both services went live on Friday.

Uber sent Peace Arch News a statement Sunday saying its goal is to expand to all Metro Vancouver communities as soon as possible, but there isn’t a timeline for when South Surrey or White Rock will be added to Uber’s coverage area.

VIDEO: Uber, Lyft approved for ride-hailing in Lower Mainland

“As more drivers come online, we will look at expanding the service area. Unfortunately, the provincial government’s Class 4 driver’s licence requirement means there are fewer drivers available than most other cities with ridesharing,” the statement reads.

Lyft sent PAN a statement saying that it’s also working towards serving the entire region.

“As we fine tune our operations and bring more drivers into the community, we’ll expand our operating area,” reads the statement from Lyft.

White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker says its up to Uber and Lyft to make the business decision to come south, but his sense is that it’s going to happen and he is receptive to the idea of ride-hailing services operating in the city.

“It will eventually get here,” Walker said Monday.

“Our position is that if it’s inevitable, and we believe it is, then we should just try and make sure we understand what it is and how we’re going to operate with it and how it’s going to operate within the confines of the City of White Rock,” Walker said.

“I’m pretty darn certain a lot of the citizens of White Rock will be pleased to see Uber and Lyft come here.”

Walker noted that Metro Vancouver is working on an inter-municipal business licence for ride-hailing in the region – an initiative he supports.

“We’re asking staff to have a look at what it means to us,” Walker said.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, meanwhile, is not ready to set out the welcome mat.

McCallum has long been critical of the service, indicating that he would do everything in his power to prevent it from coming to Surrey because he believes it is unfair to the taxi industry.

Since the launch of Uber Friday, Surrey bylaw officers have reportedly been using the app to lure drivers for a ride, only to slap them with a warning to not operate in the city or risk receiving a $500 fine.

McCallum said Monday that 18 infraction warnings had been handed out to Uber drivers in the city since Friday.

RELATED: Surrey bylaw’s tactics with Uber drivers deemed ‘entrapment’ and ‘completely wrong’

The move has been criticized by Surrey Couns. Linda Annis and Brenda Locke, with Locke labeling the practice as “entrapment.”

Uber spokesman Michael van Hemmen issued a statement saying his company does not believe Surrey has the authority to block it from doing business in the city.

This week, PARC retirement living president Tony Baena circulated a petition to encourage Surrey council to support Uber and Lyft.

Monday, Baena listed a number of benefits the ride-hailing service could provide to South Surrey and White Rock residents.

Baena said the service could be used as a “last mile” option to taxi people to and from the nearest SkyTrain or rapid transit station.

Another benefit, he added, is that ride-hailing gives seniors another option to get to and from appointments.

RELATED: Surrey tells Uber to cease operations in city, but company ‘respectfully’ declines

In White Rock, Baena noted that the waterfront parking lots can fill up during busy summer days. Ride-hailing is another way to safely transport people to and from the beach, he said.

“There’s a lot of positives, and I want to be extremely fair here. I think there should be an open playing field… I know taxis are bound by boundaries and other things. I guess what’s puzzling to me is why the … government doesn’t look at saying there’s no boundaries, everybody is on the same playing-field, the highest playing-field, and let everybody compete,” Baena said.

Kater

Another ride-hailing applicant, South Surrey-owned Kater, was declined the right to operate by B.C.’s Passenger Transportation Board. In its decision, the PTB expressed concerns with Kater’s business plan and associated financial projections and the disconnect between them.

“The Board is not satisfied that Kater is currently capable of carrying out the proposed services,” the decision states.

In a statement sent to PAN Sunday, a representative for Kater says the company is “very disappointed.”

“We have been strong proponents of ride-hailing from the onset. We firmly disagree with the Boards assessment of our revenue and financial projections. To question the financial projections of a locally owned and operated company that has been providing different levels of service into the Vancouver market since March of last year is difficult to comprehend. We will be evaluating all of our options prior to further comment,” Kater said in a statement.

– With files from Tom Zytaruk

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