Regulator rejects Uber’s request to operate outside the Lower Mainland and Whistler

British Columbians living outside of the Lower Mainland and Whistler won’t be seeing Uber in their communities anytime soon.

Earlier this week, the province’s Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) rejected the rideshare company’s request to operate outside of those areas.

The request was originally filed in September 2020 and a decision was expected before the end of the year, but was postponed as the PTB commissioned a study on the impacts of COVID-19 on the transportation industry of passengers.

This led to the decision of the PTB this week, which said it was “satisfied that Uber is fit, suitable and capable of providing the service on offer”, but it is also “not convinced that there is a public need for the service. “

<qui>Photo credit: 123rf

The study found that COVID-19 caused a drop in passenger volume for the industry across the province, but the numbers were a little different in the Lower Mainland.

Comparing the total number of trips from May 2021 to May 2019, the study found that the impact on industry is much smaller in the Lower Mainland, but this is due to the “vigorous” presence of ridesharing services. like Uber.

While the aggregate demand for taxis and taxis as a whole fell only 8.8%, taxi trips fell by around 66.3%.

“The net result is that the total number of trips has recovered to just over 90% of previous levels, with more recent data on hotel occupancy and travel volumes suggesting a further recovery,” the regulator explained. .

“Taxi companies, however, have lost significant market share as a large portion of passengers have chosen the (hailing car). (Call) journeys now exceed taxi journeys in the region. “

While the PTB was very concerned about the future of the taxi industry, the regulator also considered whether there was a public need for Uber outside the Lower Mainland and Whistler.

In 2018, the PTB hired Dr. Dan Hara of Hara Associates, a professional economist, to study this same topic.

Uber cited the report and explained that it has seen cities like Kelowna face “big fluctuations in demand” – for example, an influx of tourists during the summer – to which “the taxi service has failed. been able to respond “.

He also reported that between September 2019 and August 2020, a significant number of unique users opened the Uber app in Kelowna and Victoria, indicating demand in those communities.

Uber said the demand is still there today, as there was a 300% increase in the opening of the Uber app in Victoria and a 250% increase in Kelowna between March and August 2021.

<qui>Photo credit: 123rf

The ridesharing company also cited a study by researchers at Temple University on the impacts of its service in preventing impaired driving.

He revealed that Uber’s arrival in a city resulted in a 3.6 to 5.6 percent drop in the number of people killed in alcohol-related car crashes.

According to Statistics Canada, Kelowna and Victoria rank second and fourth in Canada respectively for police-reported impaired driving offenses.

Uber also argued that the impact of ridesharing on taxi companies is not linear, as Beck Taxi in Toronto has grown after Uber launched there in September 2014.

Other reports, according to the company, have shown that the growth of taxis in various cities where Uber has been launched has both increased and decreased.

“The decline in many cities, however, was not due to shrinking customer base and TNCs did not simply capture existing market share, but instead capitalized on a previously untapped market,” the report states. .

“Some taxi companies in some cities have seen their incomes and trips increase after the introduction of carpooling, while others, like Calgary, show that trips can decrease over time, even without carpooling. “

Ultimately, however, those arguments weren’t enough to get Uber the clearance it needed to expand its operations in British Columbia.

As a result, it will likely be a long time before British Columbians who don’t live in the Lower Mainland or Whistler can launch the Uber app to get home.

The full PTB decision is available here.

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