Province's attempt to save taxi industry from Uber falls short for drivers

By Vanessa Ybarra
March 9, 2017 - 6:45pm

KAMLOOPS — Earlier this week, the provincial government announced Uber will be hitting Vancouver streets by the Christmas season, with Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto among the six Canadian cities that have already given the green light to the ride-sharing program.

Uber is an app that allows you to reserve a ride on your smartphone from another ride-sharing driver.

It's an alternative to taking a taxi and in recent years it's popularity has exploded around the world.

In Kamloops, Yellow Cabs owner Abdul Rasheed wonders how busy his 42-car fleet will be once Uber arrives in B.C.

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"All smaller towns are going to be affected," said Rasheed.

Unlike other cab companies, Rasheed isn't opposed to the ride-sharing program coming to B.C.

He's worried about changes the transportation ministry is proposing for the entire tax industry, including eliminating class-four license requirements.

"They’re opening the market to basically part-timers without any graduating licensing, said Rasheed. "That puts the safety of the public at stake."

Along with license changes, the ministry says it's eliminating municipal boundaries for cab drivers as of the end of this year in an effort to level the playing field.

"This is as much about investing in the taxi industry and ensuring the taxi industry can remain competitive, as it is about paving the way for ride-sharing, said Transportation Minister Todd Stone. "We think both industries can coexist side by side."

While that proposal may benefit his company, Rasheed says it will have detrimental effects for smaller interior communities.

"The whole issue is if there are no boundaries, outside taxis are able to come in from smaller towns to bigger towns to work when it’s busy," added Rasheed. "That will reduce the supply of service in smaller towns."

The issue of taxis verses Uber isn't a new one.

TRU students, many of whom rely on public transportation and taxis to get around, say Uber's move into B.C is inevitable.

"I think it’s a great system and it should come to Kamloops," said one student.

"I would definitely use Uber if the prices were better than taxis," said another student.

"I'm from a small town so Uber’s not really a thing in the Kootenays, but I think it would be a good idea in larger cities," said a third student.

"We can't put a wall up against British Columbia and say no to innovative ideas like ride sharing and that you’re not welcome in British Columbia,” said Stone. That’s certainly not what British Columbians expect."

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