Uber is one step closer to operating on the streets of Kelowna and Victoria.
The Passenger Transportation Board approved, on May 10, the ride share’s license transfer application, which allows Uber to operate in the two cities.
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming was not surprised by the news saying it was not an unexpected decision from an independent board that had done its own due diligence on the ground transportation sector.
“When the taxi modernization process was started by the government, it was before anyone had heard of COVID-19 and we went through a pandemic,” explained Fleming. “I think the transportation board should be commended for slowing down the introduction of ride hail while the economy was in free fall and health restrictions were in place, leading to instability for the taxi sector.”
The board approved Uber to operate in the Lower Mainland and Whistler in 2020 and other areas of the province will now have the same accessibility to the app-operated company, although some cities have allowed for other ride hail businesses to operate.
However, in November 2022, Uber held a hiring fair in Kelowna that was protested by the local taxi industry.
Yellow taxi cab drivers gathered outside of the Fairfield Inn and Suites with signs reading “stop Uber now,” and “taxi life matters.” The protesters said that they do not want the ride-hailing app Uber to come to Kelowna, since it will create competition and reduce the ability for taxi drivers to earn money.
Amarpreet Brar, a driver with Kelowna Cabs, said that the average wait time for a taxi is only about 10 minutes in Kelowna. He said that while the wait time does increase during peak hours, particularly during the summer, it is not a significant problem.
At the time a spokesperson for Uber Canada, Keerthana Rang, said that companies like Uber and taxis can co-exist, and that it has happened in other cities. She said that since tourism is a big industry in Kelowna, the city can accommodate another transportation option.
Despite concerns raised by the protesters about insurance and safety, Uber has stated that their drivers are required to have the same level of insurance and training as taxi drivers.
Kelowna City Council, meanwhile, has identified transportation as a priority and want to see enhanced capacity and traffic flow on major road corridors, more trips by alternative transportation modes and increased traffic safety.
Mayor Tom Dyas said other efforts include new electronic fare collection for transit, changes to transit fares and on-demand transit service in the Crawford area.
“In addition, the city is also evaluating options for pick-up and drop-off points for all passenger services including taxis to make it more convenient and accessible for passengers.”
Uber acquired the license to operate from ReRyde in August 2020 and had been pursuing approval from the Passenger Transportation Board to operate in the Kelowna area.