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Jun 3, 2024

TIABC Voice of Tourism Newsletter – May 24, 2024

TIABC

I remember the first time I took my family to New York City, when upon exiting the arrivals terminal at LaGuardia, a well-dressed man walked up to us and said, “Do you need a taxi?” Not thinking anything of it, the five of us followed the guy to his limo and piled in. After he loaded our luggage, the driver opened the door and told us he would be right back. Several minutes later the left rear door opens again and in steps a young woman who was also en route to NYC. It took a few seconds to realize the dude who approached us was operating his limousine service illegally, skirting regulations, and usurping legitimate taxi drivers that had been waiting in line to pick up fares. By this point it was too late for us to exit the vehicle.

With a full limo, the driver proceeded to take the Judas clan, along with the stranger, to our respective hotels in midtown Manhattan…although he took a roundabout route to avoid tunnel and bridge tolls. Ultimately, we arrived safely and the cost was reasonable, but it was my first exposure to rogue operators…which by the way you can find in most major cities. Come to think of it, perhaps it was actually ride-hailing in its earliest form.

As you know, taxis are plentiful in the Big Apple even though at one time the cost of a medallion exceeded $1m…that is until ride-sharing came on the scene about 10 years ago. Similarly, when taxis and limos were the only options for passenger directed vehicles in BC, licenses here were also at a premium, not only price-wise but even to obtain one since there were limits on the number the province doled out to cab companies.

The vehicles-for-hire sector has changed dramatically over the last 10 years, mostly notably when the province (within the Passenger Transportation Act) approved ride-hailing services in 2018, which allowed Transportation Network Services (TNS) to enter the market and operate legally alongside taxis and limos but only in certain communities. For that matter, taxi services are not ubiquitous throughout BC either. Hence the reason government appointed a Special Committee to Review Passenger Directed Vehicles (taxis, ride-hailing) to look at look at issues like supply, safety, services in small, rural or remote communities, impacts on traffic congestion, among others.

The Committee’s report was released last week and makes 34 recommendations to improve accessibility for persons with disabilities, ensure effective regulation that works for drivers, companies, and passengers, and enhance data collection and access.

The Committee heard from 66 groups, including TIABC (and our member – the BC Taxi Association) with recommendations on how to fix or improve vehicle-for-hire transportation services for residents and visitors. A few of our suggestions were put forward by the Committee for consideration, including (quotes):

On the issue of existing boundaries and the differences between TNS and taxis, “TIABC suggested that regionalization of taxi services and cross-boundary pick-ups and drop-offs of passengers would ensure that all drivers have the same ability to provide services wherever and whenever a passenger requests a ride.” The Committee recommended that the province prioritize a detailed analysis of the potential impacts of harmonizing the operating boundaries of TNS and taxis, including examining deadheading and any effects on the provision of services to outlying or neighbouring communities.

On the issue of licenses for all vehicle-for-hire drivers, “TIABC supported the use of Class 4 licenses for taxi and ride-hailing drivers since they both provide similar services. If government were to move to a Class 5 license for TNS, the association was of the view that the same should apply to taxis, provided that drivers have a minimum of five years of safe driving experience, no violations, and appropriate training.” The Committee recommended that government review driver licensing requirements to ensure public safety, driver professionalism, and equitability between taxis and TNS while lowering barriers to entry.

On the issue of labour standards and working conditions, “TIABC recommended requiring TNS companies to improve safety standard protections and provide workplace injury compensation through Occupational Health and Safety Regulation and WorkSafeBC while classifying ride-hailing drivers as independent contractors.” The Committee proposed that the province continue to engage on and monitor the labour standards of ride-hailing drivers, including increasing the collection of data on working conditions, wages, and hours of work, to ensure the labour standards framework is fair and meets the needs of workers and the industry.

On the issue of additional transportation services, “TIABC stated that ride-hailing should not be permitted to operate in smaller communities where taxi service is readily available or should only be allowed in situations where there are not enough taxis to meet demand during peak times”. The Committee recommended that government explore how to better support the viability of smaller local TNS companies, including those operating in small, rural, and remote communities, including consideration for developing an alternative framework for these companies. The Committee also suggested that government take a holistic approach to improve transportation connectivity within and between communities in small, rural, and remote areas that recognizes their unique needs and includes viable passenger directed vehicle options in conjunction with other transportation modes.

The next step is for BC’s Passenger Transportation Board to consider and assess the potential impact of the Committee’s recommendations and work with partners in government to explore opportunities to implement the changes necessary to improve the system for passenger directed vehicles.

For the record (in case you’ve forgotten), TIABC is not against ride-hailing companies or services but maintains that a balanced approach to regulation is necessary to ensure the long-standing taxi industry can compete on a level playing field with the likes of Uber, Lyft and other service providers. More importantly, we continue to advocate to ensure that residents and visitors have access to the transportation services and options they need when they need it no matter where in the province.

The first time I visited New York City was in the mid-sixties as a kid when my family was in the process of moving to Germany. Prior to boarding the passenger liner SS United States, I was briefly kidnapped for ransom by a taxi driver. True story…best left for another day

Walt Judas,

CEO, TIABC

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