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Image: FT.com

Even The Economist is weighing in  on the fact that Vancouver is the special child, the one big city in North America that still does not have the common ride-hailing  services like Uber and Lyft.  There is the Kater service which uses taxi licences and is part of the local taxi association, which take a share of profits. Prices are similar to taxis, but there are a few Kater cars that are Karaoke cars. (We can’t make this stuff up.)

As The Economist observes British Columbia’s requirement of Class Four commercial licences may be deterring licensing  part time drivers for ride hailing. But the Province’s cautious approach to ride-hailing is also being lauded:

The regulators have reason to proceed cautiously. In many cities where ride-hailing has taken off, congestion has worsened and use of public transport has dropped. In San Francisco, congestion, as measured by extra time required to complete a journey, increased by 60% from 2010 to 2016, according to Greg Erhardt, a professor at the University of Kentucky. More than half of the rise was caused by the growth of ride-hailing. Population and employment growth accounted for the rest. Ride-hailing led to a 12% drop in ridership on public transport in the city. San Francisco’s experience is a “cautionary tale for Vancouver”, says Joe Castiglione, who analyses data for its transport authority.

Without providing data, the Economist article calls Vancouver “one of  North America’s most traffic-jammed cities, in part because its downtown is small.” 

The article rightly notes that ride-hailing can worsen congestion, but also observes that Vancouver is one of the few places in North America with public transit use increasing.

TransLink’s head of policy Andrew Curran states that high gas price, population and employment growth has helped boost transit use as well as car sharing, where people book vehicles that they drive themselves. Andrew notes that deferring Uber and Lyft in the province has helped transit and car share. Vancouver has 3,000 vehicles in car share, which is double the number of similar vehicles in San Francisco.

While the Province is now welcoming ride-hailing as a complement to ride share and to transit services,  Andrew Curran thinks there may be particular niches for ride-hailing such as getting people to transit points and enhancing transportation options for people with disabilities.

Currently, TransLink hires taxis to give door-to-door rides to some disabled people. The requirement for drivers to have commercial licences will contain the services’ growth and protect taxi-drivers, ride-hailing’s fiercest foes, or so the province hopes.”

The YouTube video below describes the current Kater service available in Vancouver. It’s worth having a quick read through the comments.

 

And the Economist article, which is behind a pay wall, is here:

BC Give Uber a Cautious Go-Ahead

“If you look Chinese and speak Mandarin you can summon a ride in Vancouver by using an app, as long as it’s Chinese. The drivers normally call to confirm the order, says Daniel Merkin, who lives in the Canadian city. “Sometimes they’ll hang up on me when they realise I don’t speak Mandarin,” he says. But he keeps trying, because popular ride-hailing services, such as Uber and Lyft, are not available. Vancouver is the only big North American city where they do not operate. The Chinese service is not legal, but it is tolerated.

Mr Merkin hopes that his options will soon expand. In July the province of British Columbia, which licenses drivers, said it would allow the big ride-hailing services in. They could start operations by late September. But British Columbia has made their entry difficult by requiring drivers to hold commercial licences. That may deter part-timers who provide much of the services’ workforce. Lyft does not operate in places that require such licences

The regulators have reason to proceed cautiously. In many cities where ride-hailing has taken off, congestion has worsened and use of public transport has dropped. In San Francisco, congestion, as measured by extra time required to complete a journey, increased by 60% from 2010 to 2016, according to Greg Erhardt, a professor at the University of Kentucky. More than half of the rise was caused by the growth of ride-hailing. Population and employment growth accounted for the rest. Ride-hailing led to a 12% drop in ridership on public transport in the city. San Francisco’s experience is a “cautionary tale for Vancouver”, says Joe Castiglione, who analyses data for its transport authority.

Even without Uber and Lyft, Vancouver is one of North America’s most traffic-jammed cities, in part because its downtown is small. Ride-hailing might worsen congestion. Its absence has made Vancouver one of the few North American cities where public transport is attracting more passengers. The number of journeys started on TransLink, the city’s public-transport system, rose by 7.1% to 437m in 2018, making it “another record-breaking year” for the network of buses and trains. From 2016 to 2018 the number rose by 18.4%. British Columbia’s higher petrol prices and growth in employment and population explain some of that rise. Not allowing Uber and Lyft helped, says Andrew Curran, TransLink’s head of policy. (It has also boosted car-sharing services, which let people book vehicles they drive themselves. Vancouver has 3,000 cars that can be hired for such services, double the number in San Francisco, which has more people.)

Vancouver was among the first cities Uber tried to enter, in 2012, and “the first city that Uber ever left”, in the same year, says Michael van Hemmen, who leads the company’s operations in western Canada. Forbidding rules, such as classifying it as a limousine service, which for some reason must charge a minimum of C$75 ($57) per trip, killed its business. British Columbia is now inviting it back to Vancouver (and other cities in the province) in hopes of complementing its public-transport system rather than undermining it. It will not be classified as a limousine service.

Mr Curran says ride-hailing could increase use of public transport by ferrying people from their houses to a bus or train stop. It could also improve transport for people with disabilities. Currently, TransLink hires taxis to give door-to-door rides to some disabled people. The requirement for drivers to have commercial licences will contain the services’ growth and protect taxi-drivers, ride-hailing’s fiercest foes, or so the province hopes.

But the commercial-licence requirement could have the opposite effect. Analysts think it will reduce the number of drivers available to pick up passengers in distant suburbs. Instead, they will cluster in the centre. Some of Uber’s future competitors say they are not worried. The commercial-licence rule will discourage most drivers, believes Chris Iuvancigh of Sharenow, which runs Car2go, one of Vancouver’s four car-sharing services. A driver who offers rides in his Mercedes suv to people who hire him via WeChat, a Chinese app, thinks they will stay loyal. If ride-hailing does come to Vancouver, he predicts, it will just slow their journeys down.”

This article appeared in the The Americas section of the print edition under the headline”Stop and go”
Print edition | The Americas
Aug 1st 2019| VANCOUVER

 

Comments

  1. “Some two-thirds of citations for driving in transit lanes and bike lanes, failing to yield to pedestrians, and other motor vehicle violations, are issued to Transportation Network Company (TNC) cars such as Uber and Lyft–this according to a study from the police department of violations in downtown San Francisco.” -https://sf.streetsblog.org/2017/09/26/supervisor-shocked-to-hear-uber-and-lyft-violate-bike-and-transit-lanes/comment-page-1/

  2. Does anyone have stats on the net economic loss to cities from TNCs like Uber and Lyft? Seems the money going from rider to driver could be loosely considered as “staying within the local economy.” How much money is skimmed off to pay the THC’s costs of operations and profit – money which leaves the local economy? How much money is leaving the local economy in the form of fuel and wear-and-tear on those circling uber drivers?
    Just curious.
    Am I wrong in thinking that ride-hailing doesn’t add anything to the local economy except congestion – and possibly some convenience for the riders?
    Odd that the BC Greens are so adamantly in favour when there is no net economic nor environmental nor societal benefit. Curiouser.
    Thanks for posting the article, Sandy!

    1. A benefit exists from using the cars more efficiently but that tends to happen more when casual drivers can enter the ride hailing market. IE when a regular taxi driver uses a car owned by a taxi company the taxi fares have to pay for 100% of the costs of the car and operation.

      Compared to a regular car user who has already bought a car for personal use decides to later be a casual uber driver the uber rides only have to pay for the marginal cost of operation not the fixed costs. Essentially a casual uber driver is more efficient then a taxi driver. That should be worth some economic benefit. That is why uber is true car sharing and taxis are not when we think about from a financial sense.

      Hope that makes sense?

    2. “How much money is skimmed off to pay the THC’s costs of operations and profit”

      Profit? They are haemorrhaging money, subsidized by investors in a race to be the dominant player. They are betting on driverless cars arriving in time to make the business model profitable. Personally, not a bet I would make. Drivers are another form of subsidy, in that they contribute a huge investment in the form of their own car, and after expenses are properly counted probably don’t even make minimum wage.

      My observation lately, whether driving, walking, or cycling is that acknowledgement via human-centric communication such as eye contact, hand signals and bike bells among others form a major part of every interaction where different modes need to know what each other are doing in order to proceed. Especially eye contact. I’m skeptical driverless technology will come anywhere close to being able to properly navigate a busy afternoon traverse of the West End for example, anytime soon. I think it will have to be sequestered to certain lanes on certain routes if it comes at all in the near future. And we already have that kind of driverless technology, we call it Skytrain.

  3. Convenience (ie Uber or Lyft vs public transit) costs money. But people are willing to pay for it apparently. As such, the easy solution is to RAISE FEES, PER KM, or per zone, for cabs, Uber or Lyft. Unclear why this is not done. Congestion pricing obviously THE answer to reduce congestion, over any bridge or on any road. Raise the fees until it flows.

    Hwy 1 packed yesterday, Gay Pride Sunday, August 4, around noon going to Abbotsford. Why is this not tolled and with three lanes in each direction to pay for it, to Chiliwack ?

    Why do we expect road use for free, incl Amazon or UPS which is decimating the retail industry that pays quadruple the property taxes vs residential ? As more and more EVs emerge in cities, even gasoline surcharges do not work anymore. Charge per km.

  4. the taxi / uber/ lyft shortage & unreliable transit are an an incentive to own a car—– ICBC s unlimited miles insurance premiums are an incentive to drive it more often—– the spin about ride sharing causing congestion is about taxi plate owners protecting their oligopoly—– they don t want to compete for customers & drivers

    1. Indeed. A (fairly high) per km charge, rather than a per plate fee, would eliminate that. Car2Go or Evo use that model. Pay per minute.

      1. “Pay per minute.”

        A recipe for more crashes, more deaths, more congestion.

        We don’t need additional technology or smarter cars (an oxymoron I think). We need grown-ups to behave as such and rank convenience behind ecological sanity for a while. More metal and plastic sh*t bound for the wrecker yard or landfill masquerading as efficient transportation is not the answer.

        1. Individual mobility is as old as (hu)mankind.

          First the canoe or sail boat, then a horse, then the horse drawn carriage, then the bike, then the boat, motorcycle, train, car or EV.

          It will not go away.

          To be human is to move about. All options must be made available, Chris. Some prefer an e-scooter, others a skateboard, some a trike, some a shared EV, some a public bus, others a subway ride, and others a luxury V8 car.

          1. “All options must be made available, Chris”

            That is facile. Why must all options be available, when we know some are clearly having a negative impact on our ecological health?

            ‘My preferences must be met no matter what’ is the mindset of a toddler.

          2. Not all options for free, or cheap, or subsidized, of course.
            -deleted as per editorial policy.

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