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'Not a fair play': Local transportation industry reacts to Uber's push for Victoria

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Uber is once again looking to put rubber on the road and begin operations in Victoria and Kelowna.

In December, the BC Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) denied the ride-hailing giant a licence to operate in the two regions saying the board did not think there was enough demand in those markets, and that the taxi industry needed a chance to recover from the pandemic.

Mohan Kang, president of the B.C. Taxi Association, says he thinks Uber is being "crafty" in its efforts to expand into the two markets.

Instead of seeking a new licence from the PTB, similar to what was denied last year, Uber has applied to transfer an existing licence from an operator who was granted one but has yet to use it in Victoria and Kelowna.

"It is a crafty way for Uber to use the system and get by the back door," said Kang.

"It will do big harm," he added.

Kang says the taxi industry still hasn’t recovered from the pandemic and there isn’t enough business or drivers to go around.

LOCAL DEMAND?

In Victoria, seven companies have received ride-hailing licences from the PTB. Out of those, Lucky to Go is the only company that is currently operating in the city.

"We’ve been operating for a year-and-a-half," said Mandeep Rana, CEO of Lucky To Go.

"At this point the ridership is not at satisfactory levels," said the CEO.

The ride-hailing company is growing but says there is only enough business to keep six drivers on the road most of the time.

"From our perspective, this is not a fair play," said Rana.

The CEO is crying foul saying by purchasing a licence, Uber is not proving that there is a business case for it to operate in Victoria.

"How could you justify that there was a demand when you’re acquiring a company that hasn’t even operated?" said Rana.

A University of Victoria business professer says Uber is known for its aggressive business tactics, and says in this case its plan could work,.

"Uber has such a reputation for pushing," said Prof. Mark Colgate.

"The Passenger Transport Board in B.C. still has to approve it, so they just can’t start operating without their approval, but things have changed since their last review," said Colgate. "It was in the pandemic and so they may be a lot more lenient."

CTV News reached out to the PTB on Thursday but it said it was unable to comment.

Uber didn’t return our calls.

In a press release issued by Uber on Wednesday, no timeline was given as to when the PTB will review Uber’s application for the licence transfer. Still, the company says it hopes to begin operating in Victoria and Kelowna by December. 

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