If all goes as planned, Metro Vancouverites will be able to have plenty of options to get home from holiday parties this year. The regulations that will govern ride-hailing in British Columbia were revealed earlier this month, and at least 11 applications from companies are awaiting a final decision from the Passenger Transportation Board.
The process is reaching its final stages, after years of political posturing and lobbying. Not everybody is pleased with the state of affairs. Elected officials from rural communities have voiced their displeasure at the fact that their areas, currently underserved by taxis and public transit, may find it hard to attract drivers with a Class 4 licence who are willing to work as ride-hailing drivers.
When Research Co. asked Metro Vancouverites about ride-hailing earlier this month, 42% of residents were fine with the new companies – provided they compete on an equal footing with taxis – and 39% welcome ride-hailing with no restrictions. Only 6% of Metro Vancouverites would not allow any one of these companies to operate in the province.
The numbers do not go through significant fluctuations in Metro Vancouver’s three main cities, with a negligible proportion of residents of Vancouver (7%), Surrey (5%) and Burnaby (4%) preferring to forbid ride-hailing in British Columbia.
Even as we are on the eve of ride-hailing companies launching their operations, there are three issues that have remained contentious: ensuring that residents with disabilities can have access to this new form of transportation, taking traffic congestion into account and guaranteeing that British Columbians who decide to work in this industry are treated fairly.
At this point, taxi companies that operate in British Columbia are required to devote one-sixth of their fleet to wheelchair-accessible vehicles. Still, we have seen reports – on the news and on social media – where Metro Vancouverites with disabilities describe their difficulties finding a taxi.
Ride-hailing companies are not currently required to have a specific number of vehicles that can service customers who possess wheelchairs. Seven in 10 Metro Vancouverites (71%) believe this should change, and that ride-hailing companies should also allocate one-sixth of their fleet to wheelchair-accessible vehicles. The proportion of supporters for this measure includes 72% of women and 80% of residents aged 55 and over.
The effect of having more vehicles on the road has been a concern for Metro Vancouverites even before the guidelines for ride-hailing were clearly defined. In November 2018, Research Co. found that 66% of Metro Vancouverites wanted to cap the number of ride-hailing drivers to reduce traffic congestion.
Ten months later, the numbers are similarly high. Almost two-thirds of Metro Vancouverites (64%) believe the provincial government should limit the number of ride-hailing cars on the road. Men (68%) and residents of the city of Vancouver (72%) are more likely to favour setting a cap.
In other jurisdictions that have already approved ride-hailing, there have already been instances where the grey definition of the “gig economy” has led to legal wrangling.
Earlier this month, the senate of California passed a bill that would compel ride-hailing companies to treat their drivers as employees and not as independent contractors. Once the bill becomes law, the most populous American state would guarantee that ride-hailing drivers are paid a minimum wage and qualify for benefits such as overtime and vacation pay. In Metro Vancouver, three in four residents (75%) believe the province should follow California’s lead. One group was particularly supportive of this measure: BC Liberal voters in the 2017 provincial election (86%). The proportion was slightly lower among those who voted for the BC New Democratic Party (83%) and the Green Party of BC (76%) two years ago.
The survey shows that Metro Vancouverites have put aside the question of whether or not ride-hailing companies should operate in the province. Complete animosity towards these companies is decidedly low.
Now, what matters is that the rollout of these services is done properly and in observation of basic principles that a sizable proportion of Metro Vancouverites believe should not be absent. •
Mario Canseco is the president of Research Co.
Results are based on an online study conducted from September 20 to September 23, 2019, among 700 adults in Metro Vancouver. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in Metro Vancouver. The margin of error – which measures sample variability – is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.