Ride-sharing companies could be operating in BC by the end of the year. That is if the Liberal Party wins the May election. While the province announced plans allowing companies like Uber to provide service, it says it will support taxi companies through the transition.
To help cabs remain competitive, the government says it will ensure an even playing field. One initiative includes a $1 million investment into an app that will allow people to hail and pay for a taxi with a smartphone. Sam Kuuluvainen is the manager of Prince George Taxi. He says an app won’t make much of a difference. “We actually have two apps set up already for our company. We have one app set up strictly for our company, we have one app which we haven’t really advertised much but it’s a provincial app…Right now we are doing perhaps 3% of our business off of these apps.”
ICBC will invest up to $3.5 million to install crash avoidance technology in all taxis province-wide. Taxis will also have the exclusive rights to be hired by phone or flagged down on the street.
Class 4 licenses will be phased out for drivers. “They are kind of standing true to their promise of offering not a competitive advantage,” says Kuuluvainen, “but they are also lowering the standard as they are doing it. By lowering the class standard; I’m not saying that Class 4 standard is a big deal, but it is an additional testing.”
If ride-sharing companies set up shop in Prince George, Kuuluvainen says it will affect business. “Right now our main fleet is fairly under-utilized as it is. We are running 60 cars and most of our cars are running 10 hour shifts a day, except Friday and Saturday night where you put on extra cars to accommodate the extra business. If we were to lose say 20-25% of our business, that would be huge.”