Don’t get too excited about ride-hailing services coming to the Tri-Cities.
There are many hurdles before drivers linked with apps such as Lyft and Uber start providing rides.
Not only is the NDP provincial government taking its time on this file, with nothing in the works until late this year, but it will take time for companies to roll out services once government rules have been passed.
There will then be the start-up realities for potential drivers, who will have to gear up to meet safety, insurance and licensing requirements. This could also take a few months, and when these services arrive to compete with taxis and public transit, they won’t necessarily be cheap.
There are many costs associated with this service, not the least of which will be special insurance, and the rules are being created to make sure taxis can compete with these new private operators.
Once these hurdles are overcome, the next question is will there be enough regular business in this area for new operators to start their ride-hailing business?
We think so.
The Tri-Cities is ripe for this kind of service because of its growing hospitality industry and proximity to SkyTrain. Ride hailing could also provide that last-mile service between rapid transit and people’s homes.
The very real worry is that ride hailing will simply add to traffic congestion in already growing and dense areas, as has happened in other North American cities where Uber and Lyft are established.
But in the Tri-Cities, where transit isn’t always convenient, ride-hailing could work to make sure people have a safe ride home after a night at Port Moody’s Brewers Row, for example.
There have also been concerns about people not making a proper living out of ride hailing, and while that may be the case, those who choose to get into the industry should make a business plan to see if costs — insurance, fuel, maintenance, depreciation — outweigh the benefits.
It seems odd that the Lower Mainland has not yet seen the benefits of ride hailing while other jurisdictions such as Alberta and Saskatchewan do.
It also seems odd that a company such as Uber, which boasts so much demand for the services it facilitates, has yet to turn a profit and is annually propped up by millions of dollars in venture capital funding.
The ultimate goal is more and better transportation options for as many people as possible. We don’t hold out hope that ride-sharing services are the only answer but they certainly can be one of them, despite the costs and concerns.