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Council divided on ride-sharing programs like Uber

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
March 10th, 2016

A motion put forward by councillor Florio Vassilakakis to support ride-sharing programs was tabled at council’s regular meeting Monday night. Vassilakakis wanted the city to send a letter to the province indicating Castlegar’s support for secondary transportation options such as Uber and Lyft.

(These are smart phone apps that allow virtually anyone to make themselves and their vehicles available as quasi-taxis, ostensibly with qualifications, safety standards and rates set by the market and overseen by the app company, such as Uber. All payment, including gratuity, is collected from riders, then distributed to drivers by the app company via credit card, so no cash exchange has to take place. Potential riders can see, before ordering service, driver service ratings, cost, etc.).

“It’s coming to B.C.,” Vassilakakis said. “The provincial government is investigating it now, and they’re warming up to it. Both the premier and the minister of transportation are talking about it.”

He that secondary transportation options should be a priority for all of Castlegar, given the difficulty the community has had in securing reliable service that works for everyone.

“Local businesses suffer without decent secondary transportation, and not just ones in the food-and-beverage industry – although we have one of the highest drinking and driving rates in the province – it’s important to help seniors get to doctors appointments, for people to get groceries, for lots of reasons,” he said, adding it’s a new business model that’s better for consumers and drivers alike.

“It has also empowered people to drive as secondary jobs and operate under their own schedules. This new model not only allows for greater competition in markets, but is also much more convenience for consumers. My experience with Uber has been nothing short of amazing.”

The rest of council wasn’t having it, though. Councillors Sue Heaton Sherstobitoff and Dan Rye both said they’re not opposed to the idea per se, but they don’t feel they have enough information to respond to the idea one way or the other.

“I thought maybe we were getting ahead of the game, because there are no rules or regulations – we’re not even sure they (the province) is going to allow it,” said Rye. “I would like to know more about it.”

Heaton-Sherstobitoff concurred, saying she has heard negative reports from other places indicating a lack of regulation has created safety concerns for service users and providers alike.

“We need more information, not just on how it works, but from the government on how they’re going to regulate it to keep people safe. That has to be the priority,” she said, adding there was no point sending it to committee at this stage, before the province has made some decisions on the issue.

Ultimately, the motion was tabled.

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