Pressure grows on Transport Minister Todd Stone to show leadership on taxi system

taxiWith Vancouver taxi companies scrambling to get 58 more cabs on the road for the Christmas rush, Transportation Minister Todd Stone is coming under increasing pressure to show leadership in the face of the crisis facing the region’s vehicle-for-hire sector.

It’s been over a year since Stone warned Uber it would be required to obtain provincial approval through the Passenger Transportation Board to launch its ridesharing service here in BC.

But a year later, and after a lengthy roundtable process lead by the City of Vancouver that included representatives of the industry, Uber and key stakeholders, the province is no closer to clarifying its stand.

In the last week, Coquitlam, Langley Township and Port Coquitlam have asked Stone to take action, effectively endorsing the introduction of Uber. Burnaby has said no to the service. Vancouver is demanding Stone develop a comprehensive policy that protects the quality and accessibility of the existing taxi industry.

The Vancouver industry has been making dramatic moves to meet the Uber challenge, investing in new technology and applying to the Passenger Transportation Board for 198 new “flex cabs” for Vancouver. The PTB turned that application down in favour of a one-month increase of 58.

Meanwhile, the uncertainty in Victoria is destroying the value of Vancouver taxi licences, which represent the lifetime savings of many owners. The total value of that investment has been estimated at $500 million, a huge amount that owners will be on the hook for if uncertainty continues to destroy the share value of their companies.

When will Stone make a move? The region needs a coherent overall policy framework. So far, Victoria has not provided one.