Metro Vancouver mayors have voted to fast track implementing a regional business licence for ride hailing in the New Year – with only Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum opposed.
McCallum was the lone vote against the motion during a Dec. 12 Mayor’s Council meeting at TransLink’s headquarters in New Westminster.
“A large majority of our residents do not support ride hailing in Surrey, basically because it is not a level playing field between ride-hailing and taxis,” McCallum said ahead of the vote, pointing to caps on the number of taxi vehicles allowed.
Earlier this fall, McCallum told a crowd of taxi drivers he intended to deny business licences to such operators.
It’s an idea that Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis called “ridiculous” at the time, adding that the mayor should be “working for Surrey residents, not (a) handful of taxi owners.”
A Mainstreet Research study released in July suggested a “strong majority of Surrey residents” support ridesharing options such as Lyft and Uber.
“78% of Surrey residents think that ridesharing should be a transportation option available to residents of Metro Vancouver, with a majority strongly believing that this should be the case,” said Joseph Angolano, Vice President of Mainstreet Research, of the study that surveyed 726 Surrey residents. “Similarly, we found that most Surrey residents think that the British Columbia government should implement ridesharing as soon as possible.”
Shortly after the Dec. 12 decision, Surrey Board of Trade voiced its support for the decision.
“Surrey needs ride hailing and transportation options in the face of continued delays for transit infrastructure. This is a step in the right direction for ride hailing implementation across Metro Vancouver,” said Anita Huberman, SBOT CEO, in a release. “The Surrey Board of Trade is pleased with today’s Mayor’s Council vote in favour of innovation and facts.”
Ride hailing is anticipated to hit roadways in the region as early as the end of the month, according to the B.C. government, and function as a zone-by-zone model across the province with each city being responsible for developing a licensing model how officials see fit.
Twenty-one cities in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and the Sunshine Coast are all considered part of Zone 1.
Over the past few months, individual cities have been grappling with how best to implement business licensing fees and other costs to ride-hailing companies. Factors include keeping safety at the forefront while also ensuring an equal playing field to taxi companies.
Councillors in Burnaby passed a motion this week, green-lighting a $510-per-driver fee and other various annual fees. Vancouver has passed a $100-per-driver fee.
But advocates for ride-hailing have criticized this approach, noting that these fees will not be taken on by the companies – similar to taxi companies – and instead be placed on drivers. Individual licenses will dissuade drivers from offering up their services in each city equally, ride-hailing supporters have argued.
In Coquitlam, city officials have passed an inter-municipal business license with Port Coquitlam and Port Moody, similar to what the three cities use for mobile businesses.
“This is a natural extension to the existing mobile business license structure to allow companies or people that do business in other municipalities so they don’t have to take a license out in each one,” explained Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said.
“I’d love to see the region do this with lots of other mobile businesses.”
TransLink vice-president Geoff Cross told the mayors that the province has said it will take over the process of implementing licenses from municipalities. The goal is to have an interim license model in place by Jan. 31 and a full set of rules by the end of 2020.
“This is a defining moment, we come here to try to collaborate and I do believe we have the opportunity to do it. Citizens I think are in vast support of ride-hailing, particularly for my community in Pitt Meadows,” Mayor Bill Dingwall said. “We don’t have a lot of other options, including taxis, and so this provides those options. What it does is help to increase our citizens confidence in TransLink, in this board and in the mayors that sit around it that we have their best interests in mind.”