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Support by Kelowna city council for ride hailing panned by local cabbies

Kelowna city council set to welcome Uber.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
January 17, 2019 - 3:10 PM

KELOWNA - Having an unlimited number of Uber drivers may sound like a good idea to Kelowna city councillors but it doesn’t make sense to local cab operators.

Council will be asked on Monday, Jan. 21, to send a letter to the provincial government responding to four questions about ride hailing services in B.C. such as Uber. The letter is written by staff but supports the position council took in writing a similar letter last year.

The new letter includes a recommendation that there be no cap on the number of ride hailing drivers allowed in the hopes that will mean there are enough cars available at peak times, such as when the bars close downtown.

“That’s ridiculous,” Checkmate Cabs president Ted Wiltshire told “The Uber guy isn’t going to work two hours a day or he isn’t going to make enough to pay licence fees."

He has drivers finding it hard to make ends meet while working 10 or 12 hours a day so he can’t see Uber drivers being able or willing to work only a couple hours a day. And if ride hailing companies do try to work just at “bar flush” time, they can charge whatever they want, Wiltshire said, claiming New Year’s Eve rides in New York cost up to $700.

Cab company fees are set by the Passenger Transportation Board and can’t be hiked at peak times. They also take cash and can be flagged by customers whereas Uber only takes credit cards and bookings through an app.

Taxis are also required to have safety inspections every six months, pay $700 per year per cab to work out of the airport and $100 per year per cab just for the taxi licence. Plus companies pay for business licences, property taxes and staffing to dispatch calls – although they also have their own apps.

A second issue that does not sit well with cab companies is the city’s agreement with the province that ride hailing drivers only need a regular Class 5 driver’s licence rather than the Class 4 professional licence taxi drivers require.

The city’s letter says the only difference between the two licences is that Class 4 requires more training and medical screening but, more importantly, Class 4 requires someone to live in B.C. for two years, so it would restrict the number of available drivers.

Wiltshire noted that taxis are also required to have chauffeurs licences each year that require criminal record checks.

“If they don’t have the rules and regulations, then make it the same for everybody,” Wiltshire said. “Then all these exorbitant licences and fees, why do we have to have them?”

Another point the province asked cities to address was about what boundaries to set for ride hailing services. Kelowna’s response is that, since the 90-kilometre limit set for cabs is basically meaningless in the Central Okanagan, there should be no limits for the proposed service.

The fourth questioned concerned how fares should be set.

Kelowna’s response is that fares should be as flexible as possible but that taxi companies should have the same flexibility for passengers who use apps.

Wiltshire doesn’t think there’s any way to stop the ride hailing services, but hopes his company survives.

“We’re a small, family owned company with a loyal customer base,” he said. “If we do everything we’re supposed to do and do it as good or better, we should be OK.”

Checkmate Cabs has 24 cars. No one from Kelowna Cabs, that Wiltshire said has 70 cars, responded by publication deadline.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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