Don't expect ride-hailing outside Metro Vancouver anytime soon, advocate says

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An industry watcher says anyone expecting ride-hailing outside the Lower Mainland could be waiting quite a while.

Earlier this week, Lyft announced plans to begin operations in Metro Vancouver as early as the fall of 2019, following years of debate and delays over allowing ride-hailing in B.C.

But Ian Tostenson, president of Ridesharing Now for B.C., doesn't expect the company to branch out any further due to concerns over a driver shortage.

"It's all about getting the drivers," said Tostenson. "They're very concerned about their ability to populate their app with drivers. They're quite concerned with areas outside Metro Vancouver, including Victoria and Vancouver Island."

The B.C. Transportation Ministry has set Sept. 3 as the date ride-hailing companies can begin applying to enter the market. While the Passenger Transportation Board has yet to unveil its final ride-hailing regulations, a statement released by Lyft on Monday says the company is confident its operations will begin in the Lower Mainland sometime this fall.

Tostenson believes the Class 4 commercial licence requirement for ride-hailing drivers — previously outlined by the province — is the main reason Lyft won't come to Vancouver Island soon. 

He said every other jurisdiction in the North America, with the exception of Alberta, doesn't require ride-hailing drivers to carry a Class 4 equivalent.

Tostenson said the Class 4 requirement isn't "the worst idea," but it involves additional training and examination that could turn away would-be ride-hailing drivers. The province argues that requiring commercial licences would better ensure passenger and driver safety, but Tostenson says ride-hailing companies already have stringent requirements for entry.

"The ride-sharing companies are really strict on criminal checks and driver abstract checks anyway," he said. "We think the Class 4 is a little bit cumbersome."

He said that's not as much of an issue in the larger market of Metro Vancouver, where many people already hold commercial licences.