Patchwork licensing for ride-hailing will drive up cost: critics

VANCOUVER — A patchwork system of business licences and fees for ride-hailing across the Metro Vancouver region would likely lead to increased congestion, wasted trips and ride refusals by drivers, critics say.

The City of Vancouver has proposed to implement a suite of licences, fees and charges on ride-hailing companies, including a $155 business licence, a $100 fee per vehicle and a 30-cent fee for every pickup and drop-off in the core of the city during peak hours.

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If other municipalities follow suit, the cost per ride-hailing vehicle could run into hundreds or thousands of dollars, said Fatima Reyes, a spokesperson for Lyft. Drivers might opt to get licensed in a single municipality to save money.

“This would increase deadheading [empty return trips] and ride refusals, and lead to higher congestion and emissions, which would be against the city’s climate priorities,” she said.

The University of B.C., Vancouver International Airport, Richmond, West Vancouver, and both the City and District of North Vancouver are in various stages of introducing their own licensing regimes, according to a report to Vancouver city council.

“Vancouver decided to do this solo and didn’t give much thought to what effect these fees would have on the rest of Metro Vancouver,” said Ian Tostenson, spokesman for Ridesharing Now for B.C. “If other municipalities follow suit, it would cost $2,000 per car.

“What they aren’t considering is how this affects affordability for people trying to get around the city,” he said. “All these costs will eventually be borne by the consumer.”

Ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft are pressing for a regional solution to licensing their drivers. The report to council says such talks are underway.

“Staff did recommend that we pursue an inter-municipal licence, so it could apply across the region,” said Vancouver Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung.

“Well, why wouldn’t we do that first? We’ve known this was coming for a long time.”

Mayor Kennedy Stewart said the measures taken by the city will minimize impacts on congestion and put taxis and ride-hailing companies on an equal footing.

“Council has worked hard to set a level playing field for all passenger-directed transportation companies operating in the city,” Stewart said in a statement.

Kirby-Yung said the mayor’s approach does nothing of the sort.

“If we want to create a level playing field, why does the congestion fee for pickup and drop-off only apply to ride-sharing and not to taxis?” she asked.

The licence and congestion fees will be used to cover the city’s administrative costs and to analyze data on taxi, limousine and ride-hailing trips and their impact on the transportation system. A report to council will be delivered in six months.

Based on revenue projections of $200,000 to $400,000 for its 30-cent congestion fee, the City of Vancouver expects hundreds of thousands of ride-hailing trips to originate or terminate in its core area next year.

Ontario-based Uride has applied to launch a ride-hailing service in Victoria, Nanaimo and three other B.C. cities, the company announced last month.

A spokesman said then that Uride hopes to launch its service in Victoria, Nanaimo, Prince George, Kelowna and Kamloops before the end of the year.

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