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Rideshare would add to Metro Vancouver's traffic congestion, committee told

When rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft eventually come to B.C., they will put more vehicles on the road and add to congestion, Prof. Sumeet Gulati says.

More vehicles means more 

pollution and accidents.

DARRYL DYCK / cp

More vehicles means more pollution and accidents.

When ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft eventually come to B.C., they will put more vehicles on the road and add to congestion, a provincial parliamentary committee was told Tuesday.

The committee of MLAs is holding public hearings as it prepares a regulatory framework for ridesharing companies.

Sumeet Gulati, an economics professor at the University of British Columbia, told the committee adding rideshare companies would lower the cost of trips, use cars more efficiently and generate more economic activity — but there’s a downside.

“You will see, obviously, more vehicle miles travelled,” Gulati said. “In fact, (a) San Francisco study and some other studies have found that at least up to 50 per cent of those extra trips are new trips. They’re not trips that would have happened if these transportation network corporations weren’t around, if the prices weren’t lowered.”

More vehicles on the road means more accidents and more pollution, Gulati said, and a decline in transit use.

That concerned Spencer Chandra Herbert, NDP MLA for Vancouver-West End. Just over half of trips in Vancouver are made by walking, biking or transit.

“I don’t want to go backwards when we’ve been making forward movement to reduce the amount of single-car usership in downtown Vancouver,” he said.

Michael van Hemmen, a spokesman for Uber Canada, said the ridesharing company sees itself as a solution to congestion, because it reduces the need to own a vehicle and the company is working on getting riders to share the same car.

Richard Campbell, executive director of the B.C. Cycling Coalition, said his group favours a tax levied on ridesharing companies to offset their impact on congestion. The proceeds could go to transit and cycling infrastructure, he suggested.

Gulati said the only way to tackle the problem is to put congestion pricing in place — tolling drivers to drive on certain roads or during busy times. TransLink is contemplating that idea.

“That’ll also help make ride-hailing more efficient,” Gulati said.

Note: This article originally mispelled Prof. Sumeet Gulati's name and has been corrected. Metro regrets the error.  

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