Northwest B.C. and regional taxi users will have a new option for paid transportation in the upcoming months with the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) approving ride-hailing services, which includes Prince Rupert, Terrace, Kitimat and Smithers, all the way to Prince George, with new ride-sharing company Lucky-to-Go (LTG).
The April 22 decision permits Lucky-to-Go a licence to provide transportation network services all across British Columbia. B.C is divided into five taxi zones with the North Coast region in zone five. The 26-page decision gave approval to LTG for operations in all five zones with a fleet of more than 275 vehicles in zones one to four and an undisclosed amount for zone five.
“We’re ecstatic. We are over the moon with the decision,” Mandeep Rana, principal director and co-owner of LTG told Black Press. “It will be a slow move, not as fast as we first thought, due to the current conditions.”
The company, which incorporated in 2019 and will be direct competition to taxi companies, has already hired a general manager in the Victoria-based office. It will continue recruitment efforts through online job posting services, taxi driver recruiting through British Columbia Taxi Association (BCTA) and other companies, while providing driver incentives.
The approval issued by PTB panel member, Catharine Read, explained the Passenger Transportation Act was amended in September 2019 to include transportation network services (TNS), commonly referred to as ride-hailing.
“The Act defines TNS to mean, in part, services respecting the connection of drivers to passengers who hail and pay for the services using an online platform, commonly referred to as an ‘app.’ A transportation network company (‘TNC’) is a company that uses an app to provide TNS,” Read said in her decision.
LTG’s application is one of 30 already made by numerous ride-sharing companies since the inception of the legislative changes. The PTB said on its website that 28 decisions had been made so far. That number includes the five decisions issued on April 22 in which one denied approval for ride-hailing services to Prince Rupert-based company 1st Choice Cabs. 1st Choice Cabs had applied to provide services to Prince Rupert and Terrace.
Skeena Taxi in Prince Rupert, Kalum Cabs in Terrace and the BCTA all submitted written opposition to the 1st Choice application.
“We were planning at least 50 cars in Terrace and Prince Rupert … depending on supply and demand,” Anoop Bhatti, co-owner of 1st Choice Cabs said. “We are locally owned and operated. We understand the clients needs. Terrace and Rupert are our home.”
Cars would have been on the road within 30 days of licensing approval, creating local job openings such as drivers, dispatchers and mechanics, without market saturation of services, according to Bhatti.
Ride-sharing offers huge flexibility for drivers because there are different rules for drivers than in the taxi driver model, which is outdated and needs modernization, Bhatti said. The current denial of approval only creates a huge opportunity to improve and come back with a more refined and stronger approach, he said.
In contrast to the 1st Choice application, Skeena Taxi was silent and made no submissions for the LTG application, with Kalum Cabs opposing it, but BCTA endorsing it.
Rana said LTG has been working closely with BCTA for several months and their partnership endorsement came with a To Go app supplied to BCTA members.
“The need for service has been there for a long time,” Rana said. “How much that actually is, is based on supply and demand. We can’t compare [Terrace/Prince Rupert] to a larger city. Whereever there is the public and taxis, there is the demand.”
Plans to operate in all of B.C. include Terrace and Prince Rupert, however, Rana said, at the date of application the timelines were different than to date. The original application stated services would commence in the region within 90 to 180 days of licensing. Depending on the travel supply, it now may take three to six months to consider due to COVID-19.
“Things are completely different now and we want to perform on an optimum level … we will be in a better place when things settle down,” Rana said. “We’ve been given a licence for the entire B.C., all regions. We are going to cover every area.”
K-J Millar | Journalist
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