The government of British Columbia announced on Tuesday a series of improvements for the taxi industry in anticipation of “ride-sharing services coming to British Columbia by the holiday season at the end of 2017,” including improving certain insurance products, potentially saving taxi drivers up to 25% in premiums.
Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone (right) and Peter Fassbender, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development and Minister Responsible for TransLink, announced the improvements on Tuesday. Credit: Government of British Columbia flickr.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said in a statement that it plans to introduce a series of improvements to help the taxi industry modernize and remain competitive in anticipation of ridesharing services by the end of the year.
Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone and Peter Fassbender, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development and Minister Responsible for TransLink, announced the improvements. Among the proposed improvements “that will help ensure a level playing field in B.C.”:
Insurance products – The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) has been collaborating with the taxi industry to streamline the claims process and “is committed to working with the industry to improve their insurance to make it more flexible and cost effective, which could save taxi drivers significantly.” Depending on the number of kilometres they drive, these savings could be in the range of 25%;
New app-based technology – The province will invest up to $1 million to help the taxi industry develop an app with the capability of shared dispatch to allow the taxi sector province-wide to better compete with new entrants to the market. This will also allow the public to hail and pay for a taxi with a smartphone in the same way that they would for a ridesharing service;
Crash prevention technology – ICBC will invest up to $3.5 million in the taxi sector to install crash avoidance technology in all B.C. taxis. This technology will improve passenger safety and help avoid crashes. (An ICBC pilot showed that this technology led to a 61% reduction in at-fault, rear-end crashes and a 24% reduction in all crashes);
Reduced red tape – The province will work with municipal governments and the taxi industry to remove red tape and overlap within the system to save drivers money;
Exclusive rights to street hailing for taxis – Taxis will retain exclusive rights to be hired by phone, at a taxi stand or flagged down at the curb;
Pick-up/drop-off anytime, anywhere – Ridesharing companies typically operate across municipal boundaries. To ensure a level playing field for the taxi industry, the province will work with municipalities and other stakeholders to allow all drivers, including taxis, the same access to provide services wherever and whenever a passenger needs a ride; and
Open up taxi supply – B.C. will work with municipalities to address the current shortage of taxis and vehicles for hire, which will provide more choice, accessibility and opportunity for both consumers and drivers.
In addition to these improvements, the ministry said in the statement that the province will require the same safety standards for both taxis and ridesharing providers. As part of this, Class 4 licenses will be phased out for taxi drivers, and taxi and ridesharing companies will be responsible for maintaining records that prove:
All drivers have an unrestricted driver’s licence (no graduated licences) and are at least 19 years of age;
All drivers have passed a criminal record check for past convictions of violent or sexual offenses as well as other offences;
All drivers have passed a safe driving record check; and
Vehicles have passed regular mechanical inspections.
The province will also “make sure that appropriate safeguards are in place to protect consumers through fair and transparent pricing,” the statement said.
The proposed improvements are the result of extensive feedback and consultation with stakeholders throughout the province, including the taxi and limousine industry, local governments, business associations, accessibility groups and transportation network companies, the transportation and infrastructure ministry reported.
Beginning this summer, government will seek additional input from taxi drivers, the ridesharing and taxi industries, police, airports, municipalities, ICBC and RoadSafetyBC as the province finalizes its plan in time for the 2017 holiday season.
“British Columbians have told us that they want ridesharing services, and we’re moving forward to make it happen,” Stone said in the statement.
Andrew Murie, the CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada, called on all political parties to commit to implementing workable ridesharing rules this year. “Mothers Against Drunk Driving supports the province’s decision to allow drivers with class 1-5 license to drive taxi and rideshare, as this will increase safe options for British Columbians,” Murie said.