The introduction of ride hailing services to British Columbia has Coquitlam scrambling to figure out how to handle the controversial business within its boundaries.
Although Coquitlam can regulate some aspects of the taxi industry inside the city, the provincial Passenger Transportation Board has jurisdiction over all ride hailing services. Municipalities can't stop ride hailing companies from operating in their cities. They also can't regulate how many vehicles operate in their jurisdictions or force drivers to have a municipal chauffeurs licence which they require of taxi drivers.
A report to council Monday, suggested the city could establish a specific ride hailing business licence fee, either as a regional program with other cities or unique to Coquitlam. Steffanie James, legal director legal and bylaw services, told council it would probably be preferable to licence the companies and not individual drivers who live and operate in the city.
The report suggests the city explore combining with Port Coquitlam and Port Moody on a joint business licence for companies like Uber and Lyft. The three cities already have an inter-municipal system in place for other businesses. The report notes the three North Shore municipalities are exploring a similar expansion of their joint system while Vancouver, on the other hand, intends to do its own licensing.
James said deciding what route to take poses a challenge because most of the city's business licences are based on brick and mortar operations and the system "doesn't extrapolate well to online" services.
"We don’’t want to make it too rigid to operate," said James.
Although a proponent of ride hailing, Mayor Richard Stewart said he has some misgivings about how the service is being introduced. He is concerned the companies the province licenses will choose to concentrate on Vancouver and not suburbs like Coquitlam.
“I want the municipality to be part of the solution, and not be a barrier at all," said Stewart.