'Unfathomable': Vancouver tourism industry lashes out against absence of Uber

'Unfathomable': Vancouver tourism industry lashes out against absence of Uber

CTV Vancouver
Published Thursday, June 28, 2018 6:24PM PDT
Last Updated Thursday, June 28, 2018 7:19PM PDT

Members of British Columbia’s tourism industry are speaking out against the BC NDP for failing to deliver on a promise to bring app-based ride-hailing services to the province in time for this year’s travel season.

“People come and go, ‘OK, can I have my Lyft or my Uber?’ and then turn on their app and there’s no cars,” said Ian Tostenson, a spokesperson for Ridesharing Now. The coalition is aimed at lobbying the provincial government to create a framework that would allow companies such as Uber and Lyft to operate alongside the taxi industry.

Before forming government last summer, the BC NDP promised it would pass legislation regulating app-based ride-hailing services in the province before the end of 2017.

But halfway through 2018, that still hasn’t happened.

“It’s just unbelievable,” said Harbour Air executive vice-president Chad Wetsch. “Like, you’re counting on it to get these people to their final destinations and we just can’t do anything about it.”

Wetsch said the inconvenience caused by the province’s lack of ride-hailing services is damaging the reputation of the rest of the tourism industry.

“It’s awful when we get a two-star Trip Advisor (review) because someone has had to wait for a taxi,” he said.

The executive director of Vancouver Pride echoed that sentiment Thursday, saying it’s “unfathomable” that ridesharing still isn’t an option for those visiting the province.

“Pride brings in a lot of tourism to our city and those tourists get frustrated with being able to get around where they need to go,” Andrea Arnot said.

In mid-October, the provincial government extended its timeline for introducing ridesharing legislation and hired and expert to consult with the taxi industry. At the time, the party said the earliest British Columbians could see ride-hailing legislation was the fall of 2018.

Just days later, the Green party took its third run at bringing ride-hailing to B.C., tabling a private member’s bill to pave the way for Uber and Lyft.

Despite ride-hailing being illegal, the province has had to crack down on underground companies offering similar services to the two companies.

Representatives from Uber and the taxi industry attended an all-party meeting in January during which each side presented their solution to B.C.’s cab shortage.

A month later, a panel made up of MLAs from the NDP, Green and Liberal parties released a list of 32 recommendations that offered glimpse at what regulated ride-hailing could look like in the province.

Despite the delays, the NDP says it remains committed to bringing ride-hailing to the province.

“We’ve heard from people that they want more options, but we want to ensure that it’s safe and efficient for all commuters,” NDP MLA Ravi Kahlon told CTV News Thursday. “We’re committed to making sure that those options come online and we’re preparing right now all the options and you’ll be hearing more from us very soon.”

Kahlon said ridesharing will be a big item on the government’s agenda during the next session in the Legislature, but wouldn’t say when British Columbians can expect legislation.

In the meantime, those who are depending on ride-hailing in order to stay competitive in the tourism industry say they won’t stop fighting for legislation.

“If enough people get behind it and continually talk about it, it has to happen,” Wetsch said. “This should be the last summer.”

With files from CTV Vancouver’s Shannon Paterson

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