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City Holler

Trish Kelly explores the issues and challenges that face our growing city.

Make Uber an election issue in B.C.

If you want Uber, tell every party that asks it’s an election issue for you, writes Trish Kelly.

Green MLA Andrew Weaver has proposed a bill to make ridesharing services like Uber legal in B.C.

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Green MLA Andrew Weaver has proposed a bill to make ridesharing services like Uber legal in B.C.

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver has proposed legislation that would bring Uber and services like it to our province. His second kick at this can, he’s announced it in the lead up to our May provincial election and it might actually get somewhere: the BC Liberals say they will take a position on ridesharing before the election.

Weaver’s ridesharing act is careful to offer some appeasement for each type of Uber naysayer. Those who want rideshare drivers to go through similar vetting processes as taxi drivers, will be happy to see the proposal includes annual criminal record checks for drivers, as well as a duty to report license suspensions and changes of address.

For the taxi industry, Weaver proposes a way to divvy up the car for hire market. Weaver proposes that rideshare companies be limited to accepting business through an electronic platform and be forbidden from accepting street flags. He also poses that rideshares be prohibited from taking cash trips. Though this may sound limiting for the rideshare market, rideshare operators would be left off the hook in terms of requiring wheelchair accessible service, which is expensive business to handle.

Trish Kelly:

Though the proposal gives traditional taxi companies some protected business, I can’t imagine it will be enough to reverse their opposition. The protected piece of the pie will likely be the tougher side of car for hire business -a protected customer base that includes those with accessibility issues, lower income residents who carry cash because they don’t have credit, or who lack the smartphone needed to use an app based service or are OK with risking standing in the parking lane scanning for a lit toplight.

The proposal is very focused on appeasing the various lobbies, but it misses why people like Uber. Uber is often faster and a better user experience than traditional taxis. On my recent trip to an American city with a large Uber fleet, I waited no more than two minutes for any ride. Drivers were customer service focused to the point of cloying, offering breath mints and bottles of water during the shortest of rides.

More on Uber:

Both the ruling government and Weaver speak of the need to consult the public regarding the future of rideshare services. This is likely code for, if enough voters step forward to say this is important to them, proving there is a loud constituency supporting it, the government could find the strength to out-maneuver the lobbyists.

More than 100,000 Vancouverites have downloaded the Uber app, and that is more than an impressive customer base, it’s a whole lot of voters. If you want Uber, make sure you’re registered to vote, and tell every party that asks it’s an election issue for you.

Trish Kelly lives and writes in East Vancouver. Follow her on Twitter @trishkellyc.

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