People taking an Uber or Lyft within the confines Vancouver’s central core will be paying nearly $1 in municipal and provincial fees.
Vancouver became the first municipality in the Lower Mainland to pass regulations around ride-hailing on Wednesday, with council approving up to 60 cents in fees — a 30 cent fee for every pickup and drop off in the “Metro Core” region — defined as the area east of Burrard Street, west of Clark Drive and north of 16th Avenue.
The fee is in place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, with revenue going toward managing congestion.
An additional 30 cent fee has been created by the province for all rides in B.C., regardless of time, with the money supporting accessibility.
In both cases, the fees will not apply for accessible vehicles. Most major cities in Canada have additional fees of 20 to 30 cents per trip.
In addition to the municipal and provincial fees, ride-hailing companies in B.C. will have to set the same minimum rate as taxi companies, which varies between $3.25 and $3.95 depending on the region.
The province’s regulations around ride-hailing do not allow municipalities to withhold business licences but allows them to put additional regulations on companies operating within their borders.
“It’s important for us to bring in some interim measures immediately to do our best to manage the launch of ride-hailing,” said Lon LeClaire, Vancouver’s director of transportation.
$100 yearly business licence fee
While councillors were on board with the 30 cent fee, there was significant debate over a proposal by city staff of a $100 yearly business licence for each driver.
Representatives for both Uber and Lyft worried that if other municipalities copied Vancouver with their own fees, drivers would choose to stick to the one or two municipalities with the most customers and fewest municipal boundaries.
“Are we putting in too many barriers, so most people choose to just drive in Vancouver because it’s the most profitable market?” asked Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung.
“I [don’t support] a Vancouver-only model that moves ahead without looking at an entire municipal approach. What that smacks of to me is the taxi approach, where we are creating false challenges to having vehicles go across municipal boundaries.”
City staff noted they were also lowering the yearly licence for taxis to $100 ,down significantly from $616, in order to create the more “level playing field” between taxis and ride-hailing companies that council had previously asked for.
In the end, an amendment was passed directing staff to review the $100 licence fee after six months, following consultations with other municipalities in the region.
City manager Sadhu Johnston said he expected Vancouver’s legislation to serve as a template for other municipalities, but Vancouver would continue to fine tune its bylaws when they see the impacts of ride-hailing company operations which are expected to begin by the end of the year.
“This will be very dynamic,” he said. “We’re going to be watching it closely. We’re trying to avoid some of the pitfalls we’ve seen in other cities.”