The City of Burnaby will be signing on to a regional program to regulate ride-hailing services in Metro Vancouver, while looking for ways to increase the accessible taxi fleet in the city.
City council heard a recommendation from staff to approve the inter-municipal business licence program earlier this month, but councillors kicked the issue back two weeks with hopes of finding a solution to the lack of accessible vehicles.
Unlike taxi companies, ride-hailing companies, like Uber and Lyft, are not required to maintain a certain number of accessible vehicles in their fleet. The province is looking at collecting a 30-cent per-trip fee on ride-hailing companies to subsidize accessible vehicles for taxi companies, but staff said the subsidy could take upwards of two years to fund.
Coun. Sav Dhaliwal led the push at the March 9 council meeting to defer the matter, but by this week’s council meeting, Dhaliwal said he was satisfied signing onto the IMBL was the best call for the city. He said signing on to the IMBL would allow the city to make the change they want to see, particularly more funding for accessible taxis, as partners in the program.
“The province really hasn’t got anything at this point to offer for support for the local taxi companies when it comes to providing accessible vehicles,” Dhaliwal said.
“This is going to be an opportunity for us to work with other cities who are also signatories to this inter-municipal business licence to continue to pursue how the accessible vehicles … would be subsidized.”
Dhaliwal suggested the city look into developing its own fee for ride-hailing companies to fund its own subsidy for accessible vehicles for taxi companies.
“The concern for us all the way through this has been: Who’s going to pick up that slack? And whoever provides that service, how are they going to be funded for the extra cost that goes along with that service?” Mayor Mike Hurley said.
“I still think it’s the right move to go ahead. At least it gives us an opportunity to view all the data that’s being collected through the ride hailing and through the taxi companies so that we can make a better judgement in about 18 months’ time about where we should be going with this.”
Council voted unanimously in favour of joining the IMBL but also directed staff to look into a local fee to subsidize accessible taxis.