Uber has been available for years in other provinces. (Contributed)

Maple Ridge ride hailing about a year away, maybe

Most cities require Class 4 licence for Uber drivers

The government’s plans to create a new ICBC insurance category for Uber will take a year, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena announced this week.

But local critics say it’s time to get a move on.

The legislation introduced in the B.C. legislature calls for Uber drivers to have a Class 4 driver’s licence, for the Passenger Transportation Board to decide on the number of Uber drivers, and it’s hoped, dissolve the boundaries that currently ban taxi drivers from picking up customers in cities outside their home base.

“I’m looking at the fall of 2019,” when people can apply for an Uber licence, Trevena said Thursday. “We’ll do it hopefully before September, but that’s the date we’re working towards.”

She said it’s going to take ICBC a year because, in the time since the May 2017 provincial election, ICBC has been focusing on cleaning up its financial situation.

Trevena said most cities across Canada are requiring drivers to have a Class 4 licence or equivalent, which requires a medical exam and a criminal record check.

She defended the Passenger Transportation Board limiting the numbers of Uber drivers, where needed, because of the experience in other cities, such as New York, which is in the process of setting limits on the number of Ubers.

“We’re learning from their mistakes,” Trevena said.

B.C. intends to avoid issues like “gridlock” at peak passenger demand times and declining use of public transportation, Trevena told the legislature.

The Passenger Transportation Board also will decide if taxi company boundaries can disappear, allowing cabbies to pick up far afield, which will encourage cabbies to accept long trips because they will be able to pick up other customers on their return trip.

“That will be going. We’re going to have that single jurisdiction. We wanted to make sure that people can really get a ride where they need it, when they need it,” Trevena said. “I’m anticipating this legislation will allow this to happen.

“Hopefully, with the approval of the Passenger Transportation Board, that’s what we would see,” Trevena said.

“Unlike the previous government, we’ve actually introduced legislation that will allow for ride-hailing. The previous government never managed to get to that stage. We’ve done it within a year. We’re very pleased about that,” Trevena said.

Former Liberal MLA Doug Bing said under the previous Liberal government, Uber was going to be operating by 2017. The Liberals lost the 2017 provincial election to the NDP.

“I’ve used Uber in Toronto and I’ve seen what a nice, efficient system it is,” Bing said.

“The NDP seem to be very anti-entrepreneurial,” in creating several regulations, he added.

Requiring Uber drivers to have a Class 4 licence is the same requirement faced by bus drivers. However, taxi drivers already have to have a Class 4 licence.

“That just doesn’t seem necessary for these people and it will discourage a lot of people from getting involved,” Bing said.

The government also wants to limit the number of Uber drivers while in other cities, supply and demand decides how many drivers there are, he added.

Bing said that ICBC was ready to provide Uber insurance before the election and doesn’t see why that’s an issue. The private sector is willing to get involved, he added.

“But there’s no reason for ICBC to be lagging on this because they were already told it was going to be implemented in December 2017.”

“The government seems to over thinking and regulating it, he added. “This has been done in major urban areas around the world. It all seems to work there,” Bing said.

Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden said people want the service.

“Uber’s time is here. It needs to be run as soon as it can be.”

“The public is saying they all want it sooner than later.”

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