BC NDP’s ride-hailing delays penalize local providers

Lack of government clarity hurting local transportation services: entrepreneurs

Nitesh Mistry, co-founder Vancouver-based Ripe Rides | Photo: Chung Chow

The decision to suspend Ripe Rides’ operations in March 2017 felt like a “kick to the stomach” to co-founder Nitesh Mistry.

Like Uber Technologies Inc., Ripe Rides was offering GPS tracking of hired vehicles, driver ratings and digital dispatching through an app.

Unlike Uber, the B.C. company had been awarded 20 licences to operate mid-level luxury cars in the city of Vancouver when it made an application for 150 multi-city taxi licences in December 2016.

But as the spring 2017 election approached, all three of the major political parties began promising to introduce ride hailing to the province by year’s end. Mistry said the company had little choice but to step back and re-evaluate its business model as it prepared to go up against major players in the ride-hailing game.

“We’re a year and a half later and still no further,” he said. “It was a tough pill to swallow.”

Mistry said Ripe Rides is now in wait-and-see mode after the B.C. government tabled legislation November 19 that would introduce insurance products for ride-hailing companies by fall 2019.

But Transportation Minister Claire Trevena would not commit to a specific date for launching the services. Instead, she said the burden would fall on the provincial regulator, the Passenger Transportation Board, to approve any applications from companies like Uber or Lyft.

So for now Ripe Rides’ operations remain suspended until the team can gain more clarity on what the future holds for transportation alternatives in the province.

“It’s frustrating,” Mistry said.

Ryde Today co-founder Shreyans Jain said his B.C. company has been hurt by the long delays brought on by government.

The online limo-booking service uses a mobile app to allow customers to compare regulated vehicles and prices instead of calling different companies individually for details.

Ryde Today in turn takes a 15% cut of the bookings.

Jain said government delays have made much of the regulated industry complacent, putting less pressure on them to look for services like Ryde Today to help them be more competitive ahead of the introduction of Lyft and Uber.

“This industry has been fragmented for way too long,” he said.

“It’s just a good opportunity to collaborate and work together rather than killing each other for the business, which doesn’t make sense.”

Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman said businesses have been growing increasingly frustrated by the constant holdups from government.

“Why do we need delays? Why can’t it just be implemented now?”

Huberman added that the province and ICBC have already had significant time to consider concerns over safety and insurance.

“In order to be a competitive, innovative global destination we need ride hailing,” she said.

“I’m hoping the B.C. government can expedite the timeline to the spring of 2019 and have companies like Uber and Lyft operational, on the roads, by the spring instead of waiting until fall or even 2020.”

The Ridesharing Now for BC advocacy group is also calling for Victoria to move up the timeline to spring 2019.

The group’s president and CEO, Ian Tostenson, told reporters the day after the province tabled legislation that businesses are “bewildered” by the lack of clarity regarding when ride-hailing services will be on B.C. roads.

“Business likes certainty, they like targets, they like to make the adjustments,” said Tostenson, who is also president and CEO of the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association.

“We frankly can see a timing that takes us into 2020.”