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'We need additional options': Renewed calls to allow Uber, Lyft to operate in Greater Victoria

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Now that many COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, tourists are returning and bars and restaurants are filling up.

That has prompted the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association to renew its call to the province to allow large ride-hailing companies, including Uber and Lyft, to operate in the capital.

“The transportation infrastructure isn’t there to support (the increase in tourism),” said Ian Tostenson, the association’s president and CEO.

It’s a call that the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA) supports.

“As things have opened up, it’s increasingly clear that we need additional options,” said Jeff Bray, the DVBA’s executive director.

Bray says the taxi industry provides a great service, but he’s hearing from the business community he serves that more options are needed.

“There are enough cabs on the road to serve the people,” said Mohan Kang, president of the BC Taxi Association.

Kang admits that on busy weekends you should expect to wait for a cab, but he points to a December decision from the Passenger Transportation Board denying large ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft permission to operate in the capital region as evidence that existing service is sufficient.

“They simply don’t want to flood the market then nobody can make any money and they also lose the professional taxi service,” said Kang of the PTB.

He says the taxi industry is mandated to provide services that ride-hailing companies don’t, such as wheelchair-accessible vans, which could cost a company up to $70,000 to outfit.

“Uber or Lyft don’t have to do any of those things,” said Kang.

He said he wants a level playing field if big ride-share companies are allowed to operate in the Capital Regional District.

In a statement to CTV News, Uber said:

“Local residents have been clear that they want access to the same safe, affordable, reliable transportation options that are available in the Lower Mainland … We will continue to be locally engaged and look for ways to expand across British Columbia.”

“MADD Canada is a very strong proponent of ride sharing,” said Eric Dumschat, legal director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada (MADD).

He points to a growing body of research that shows ride-sharing services have decreased alcohol-related fatalities in many U.S. cities.

“We really need to provide as many options as we can to allow people to make the smart choice to get home safely rather than get behind the wheel while they’re impaired by alcohol or drugs,” said Dumschat.

A few smaller ride-sharing companies have been granted permission to operate in the region. One of those companies is called Lucky To Go.

It currently has 10 drivers and wants to expand, but says an ongoing labour shortage is making that difficult. 

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