Undeterred by the warnings and regulations of the city council, Uber is once again returning to carve its niche in the Vancouver market. As a city recently named the fourth greenest city in the world, Vancouver is well acquainted with the benefits of ride-sharing. Touted as a way to embrace green technology, it seems counterintuitive that the municipal government has thrown every possible regulation to bar its entrance. Uber previously left Vancouver after the Passenger Transportation Board required its drivers to acquire a limousine license and charge a minimum of $75 per trip.
Its value proposition is remarkably simple; it hires drivers, who use the Uber app to connect to potential passengers. These customers enter their credit card information into the app, which then pays the driver and provides Uber with a slice of the profit. As of now, a driver’s license, background check and a post 2005 vehicle are the only requirements to be an Uber driver. This provides the system with enormous flexibility and convenience.
This decisive advantage over conventional taxi transport seems to be where the conflict enters. The market is monopolized by four companies, Yellow Cab, Black Top, MacLure’s and Vancouver’s Taxis. Cab numbers are currently capped at a mere 588, with a license recently sold for just shy of a million dollars. Like Seattle, the existing system seems ripe to be flooded by thousands of Uber drivers, with cheaper fares and higher availability.
The BC government has currently set a six month moratorium while it deliberates on how to adapt to the changing circumstances. As it stands, ethical and legal concerns range from the collapse of the traditional taxi industry to the uncertain qualifications of Uber drivers. Uber has the capacity to bypass the complex licensing and insurance requirements with its status as a tech company. Its drivers currently risk legal liability for accidents and a loss of insurance coverage from ICBC. Vancouver companies have declared that they would fire drivers seeking a compromised situation by adopting the Uber app, citing the potential of losing taxi licenses if conditions were violated.
While incapable of operating legally in the province without approval, Uber has had a history of ignoring regulations, relying on public support to eventually overturn rulings. Given the rapid growth of this $17 billion dollar business and clear superiority of its model, it seems unlikely that any restrictions could bar them much longer.