VICTORIA — The journey to bring ride-hailing to British Columbia came closer to a destination Monday as the provincial government announced it will start accepting applications in September for companies to enter the market.
Safety, insurance and penalty rules and regulations were updated, but still to come this summer are rules covering fares that drivers can charge, vehicle boundary zones and the numbers of vehicles allowed on the roads, said New Democrat Bowinn Ma.
There's no exact day when ride-hailing can start in B.C. and opinion varies from mid-September to as late as the end of the year.
Ma, who heads an all-party legislative committee that deals with ride-hailing, said the goal is to start by year's end, but a Transportation Ministry official said companies could be approved to operate as early as Sept. 16 or early fall.
"Right now we're expecting that new transportation network companies will be able to apply to the Passenger Transportation Board as of Sept. 3 and we're confident that people will be able to hail a ride through this new transportation network service by the end of the year," said Ma during a telephone news conference.
But at least one transportation network service company said it has difficulties with the new rules, especially B.C.'s plan to ensure all drivers hold commercial class 4 driver's licences, the same as taxi and limo drivers.
Lyft spokesman Aaron Zifkin said in a statement his company wants to bring ride-hailing to B.C. but the rules and regulations announced Monday impose unnecessary red tape and could result in a lesser version of the service for B.C.
He said the government's decision to stick with its plan to require all drivers to hold commercial class 4 licences does not improve safety, but increases wait times and benefits the taxi industry.
"Lyft does not currently operate ride-sharing in any jurisdiction that requires drivers to change their driver's licence to a commercial driver's licence," Zifkin said.
Ma said B.C.'s plan to stick with the class 4 licence regulation is "non-negotiable."
"We know that its important for people to be confident that when they are hailing a ride and getting into a car with somebody they don't know, and paying them to drive them around to a set destination, that they actually get there."
The new regulations will require transportation network companies to pay $5,000 annual licence fees, charge 30 cents per ride on vehicles that don't have access for disabled passengers and drivers and passengers must wear seatbelts at all times, Ma said.
Annual inspections of ride-hailing vehicles and taxis are required if the vehicle has logged 40,000 kilometres or less in the previous year and vehicles with 40,000 kilometres or more in the previous year require semi-annual inspections, said Ma.
Ma said ride-hail vehicles can't be older than 10 years and illegal operators could face fines of up to $100,000 per day.
She said the Insurance Corporation of B.C. will sell a blanket insurance product directly to the ride-hailing company, with the rate based on kilometres driven.
The insurance will be available July 16 and ride-hailing companies and vehicle owners have the choice to buy additional optional coverage, she said.
Drivers are required to complete criminal and driver record checks, said Ma. A driver cannot have four or more points convictions within two years or any serious driving infractions within a three-year period, she said.
"We wanted to get this right the first time to make sure we took into consideration the challenges other jurisdictions have faced and learn from them," Ma said. "We believe we've struck the right balance by acknowledging the current industry, ensuring safety, but most of all giving people more choice."
Uber Canada spokesman Michael van Hemmen said in a statement the ride-hailing company will review the B.C. policy to evaluate its impacts on the ability to serve customers.