Ride-hail­ing plan hits dead end

The Prince George Citizen - - Opinion - KIRK LAPOINTE

Isup­pose the next best thing for gov­ern­ments to do when they can’t please every­one is to en­sure they don’t please any­one. Case in point is the regime emerg­ing in Bri­tish Columbia to launch – ac­tu­ally re­launch, be­cause we for­get the prov­ince smacked down the first ef­fort – the ride-hail­ing busi­ness.

Per­mit me some re­straint of en­thu­si­asm for its ar­rival later this year, now that the in­de­pen­dent Pas­sen­ger Trans­porta­tion Board (PTB) has out­lined the rules, and let me present the lunch­bag let­down of the in­ter­ested par­ties.

How can con­sumers be happy they will not get a break on fares?

How can taxi driv­ers be happy they will not get a break on their ab­surd bound­aries to pick up those fares? How can the new en­trants be happy when they can­not be all-in as they are in most civ­i­lized mar­kets?

The PTB, the fi­nal bump on this most me­an­der­ing, pon­der­ing and rocky of roads to de­liver ride-hail­ing af­ter an ear­lier false start, has is­sued reg­u­la­tions with all sorts of water in the wine. To be sure it feels intoxicati­ng, but that’s be­cause we have been on the wagon for so long now, even cheap­ened plonk will taste like VQA.

But we might miss the truth that the twin at­trac­tions of Lyft, Uber and the like have been price and con­ve­nience. On the former, the new regime is an epic fail; on the lat­ter, it may be yet.

We will be a prov­ince of reg­u­lated min­i­mum and un­reg­u­lated max­i­mum fares. Imag­ine that: an­other in­dus­try be­ing told how lit­tle it can charge – but strangely, not how much – at the lit­eral ex­pense of the pas­sen­ger. Is this truly a con­sumer-friendly regime?

With its man­dated floor rates on fares, the prov­ince has cho­sen to serve the in­cum­bent taxi com­pa­nies. The new en­trants can’t of­fer dis­counts, coupons, loy­alty points, what­ever to en­tice busi­ness, as they do in for­eign vis­tas like Toronto. The taxi rate pre­vails, and that means the me­ter starts at some­where be­tween $3.25 and $3.90 in the Lower Main­land.

If the gov­ern­ment was try­ing to pro­tect the taxi in­dus­try, it has a dark sense of hu­mour about it. Why would some­one stay in a cab fleet when it will be pos­si­ble now to charge any­thing when bad weather hits, a concert is let­ting out, or a bar closes?

Then again, the new en­trants in ride-shar­ing will be chal­lenge­shar­ing, too. A siz­able por­tion of the ride-hail­ing driv­ers are cou­ple­hours-a-day

types. They take fares on the way home from work or when they drop their chil­dren at soc­cer prac­tice. What isn’t clear is whether this new regime – in par­tic­u­lar, its semi-has­sle and cost of procur­ing the more ex­ten­sive Class 4 li­cens­ing – will cul­ti­vate the same gig-econ­omy co­hort. I sus­pect we’re go­ing to see pretty much full-timers in new and old en­trants alike – few mort­gage­help­ing roles, mainly mort­gage­meet­ing ones.

Sure, cab­bies get to claim the port and the air­port as their basic pre­serve. And even though the in­dus­try is called ride-hail­ing, you will only be able to phys­i­cally (as op­posed to tech­no­log­i­cally) hail a taxi. Ride-hail­ing here will be an app that courts a ve­hi­cle on your smart­phone, not your arm court­ing one on your street.

Still, the Van­cou­ver Taxi As­so­ci­a­tion feels be­trayed. To which many of us can say on be­half of the char­ter mem­bers: wel­come to the club, ju­nior associates, your ori­en­ta­tion is about to be­gin.

The Hor­gan gov­ern­ment long ago made clear that the con­sumer would not en­joy the ride-hail­ing regimes else­where and that the prov­ince would adopt a made-inB.C. ap­proach. But even its friends in the taxi busi­ness would have been delu­sional to ex­pect the sort of vic­to­ries Don­ald Trump expects at the trade ta­ble; into its wine has gone some water, too.

What is fair to say is that the PTB did its best to bal­ance the un­bal­ance­able. It was handed a tough, long over­due, in­sanely politi­cized task and it for­aged as best it could for the few berries it thought we could col­lec­tively digest. Its pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions to reach an ac­com­mo­da­tion re­flected dif­fer­ent war­ring fac­tions in dif­fer­ent oc­cu­py­ing uni­verses.

The short­hand is we are get­ting ride-hail­ing. Re­joice the chimera!

The long­hand is that we are not get­ting ride-hail­ing. We are get­ting more ve­hi­cles to roam more and charge what the mar­ket will bear – un­less it’s too lit­tle, in which case the Hor­gan gov­ern­ment is there for you, be­lea­guered taxi driver, to deal with a sud­den storm you thought your votes and sup­port had pro­vided you a safe port to weather.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.