All hail Uber: Coquitlam latest to sign on for ride-hailing services

The city of Coquitlam is calling on the provincial government to create one set of regulations for ride-hailing services looking to operate in Metro Vancouver.

As companies such as Uber and Lyft get ready to launch in the new year, a patchwork of municipal licensing rules have cropped up that Mayor Richard Stewart said could disrupt seamless travel across city boundaries. Council voted this week to send a letter to the province asking for normalized rules across the region. 

"Ride hailing is of tremendous value to the safety of the community and transportation in the community," Stewart said. A unified standard is needed for the Lower Mainland, he added, "so that ride hailing has a chance to provide rides, particularly to the suburbs."

Coquitlam is the latest city to move forward with third reading for an inter-municipal business licence that will regulate ride hailing in the area. Port Moody and Port Coquitlam approved similar initiatives earlier this week.

Under the agreement, Coquitlam will administer the licences, taking 40% of the revenue, while the other two cities will split the remaining 60%.
Operators will be charged a $1,000 for 25 vehicles, $2,500 for 26 to 100 vehicles and $5,000 if they expect to have more than 100 vehicles in the area. There will also be a 10-cent charge for every trip originating in the Tri-Cites except for accessible and zero-emission vehicles.

Attempts to harmonize ride-hailing regulations are also being discussed at the Metro Vancouver level.

Thursday, the region's mayors voted to begin looking at creating an inter-municipal business licence for the 22 member municipalities, although implementation could take months. In the meantime, TransLink is encouraging cities to be as consistent as possible in setting up their own licensing regimes.

But municipalities are far from unified in their approach to regulating ride hailing. For example, Vancouver will charge $155 per company and $100 per vehicle with a 30-cent "curb access fee" during the peak period between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. In Burnaby, the cost will be $500 per vehicle. And in Surrey, Mayor Doug McCallum has vowed to block ride hailing entirely and was the lone vote against an inter-municipal business licence at the regional table.

Dragana Mitic, Coquitlam's manager of transportation. - FILE PHOTO

While ride hailing is set to launch in B.C. in the coming months, there are still many questions about what impact the service will have on the region.
Last August, a study conducted by transportation consultancy Fehr and Peers on behalf of Uber and Lyft found drivers for the two companies were adding to congestion on city streets.

The impacts were heaviest in downtown cores. In San Francisco, for example, Uber and Lyft made up 13.4% of all vehicle miles travelled, a percentage that dropped to 3% for the entire Bay Area. Seattle was at the other end of the spectrum, with the companies making up 2% of all vehicle miles travelled downtown and 1% across the region.

Dragana Mitic, Coquitlam's manager of transportation, said traffic congestion in suburban communities like the Tri-Cities is unlikely to be a significant issue when ride hailing companies hit the streets. But Mitic said staff would be monitoring data it will collect as part of the licensing agreement to see if bylaw or policy tweaks are needed.

"We are aware of the potential for these services to generate additional trips and, it not managed properly, they can result in negative consequences," Mitic said in an email. "While it is likely that the negative congestion impacts are more likely to occur within larger urban environments, we will be using the dat that is generated [and] collected by the program, and our own monitoring, to conduct transportation analysis and make adjustments if required."

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