Surrey mayor the sole voice against ridesharing on mayors’ council

Surrey's city council votes to ask the province for more taxi licences to meet growing mobility demands

A taxi driver on the job in the Lower Mainland. Surrey proposes adding taxis to meet mobility demands. Photo: GoToVan
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Reported by Nathan Durec

With the implementation of ridesharing in B.C. only a few months away, one mayor in the Lower Mainland refuses to be swayed in his opposition to this mobility alternative.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum expressed his position against the upcoming introduction of ridesharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, at the most recent TransLink mayors’ council meeting

“I do not support, and Surrey in fact, does not support ride-hailing as such in our community,” McCallum said. “And we, in fact, campaigned on that very theme during the recent civic election.”

The mayor’s opinion was not surprising to many of his constituents in Surrey.

For Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, it was simply more of what she has come to expect from the current council.

“When the mayor of Surrey and council indicates that they believe and they know that ride-hailing is not for Surrey, they’re not thinking of the bigger picture,” Huberman said. “We want alternatives to get around and ridesharing is one of them. Transit is another. I just am quite boggled as to the limited vision of council as it relates to ridesharing.”

Alternative fix: more taxis?

The alternative offered by McCallum is simple: more taxis. At the last Surrey general council meeting, a vote to apply for 36 new taxi licences was approved and sent to the province. The city is still awaiting approval for the licences.

“At this stage, that is the proper way to go,” McCallum said.

But for Huberman, this is not even close to being a viable solution.

“The taxi industry simply cannot, even through additional licences, accommodate our current population needs,” she said. “We’re going to have another 400,000 people moving south of the Fraser. Thirty or 40 taxi licences, it’s not going to meet our transportation needs.”

Even Mohan Singh Kang, president of the B.C. Taxi Association, is skeptical when it comes to this idea. He said that a few months ago, the province streamlined the licencing process and allowed taxi companies to add 15 per cent more vehicles to their fleets. In the Lower Mainland alone, this amounted to 304 new taxis.

Safety first

But competition can be healthy, Kang said. The concern from the B.C. Taxi Association is, and has always been, safety.

“We do not have any problem with the TNCs [ridesharing companies],” Kang said. “Provided they meet the safety standards that are needed, what the taxi industry has to abide by. And also there’s an even playing field.”

Huberman reaffirmed her desire to see taxi companies do well in a changing market landscape as well.

“We can’t only rely on the taxi industry, but we don’t want the taxi industry to die either. A level playing field, and there’s a way to do it for all industries,” Huberman said.

Currently, taxi drivers must possess a class 4 driver’s licence, which is for professional drivers, and obtain a chauffeur’s permit that is issued through the law enforcement agency of the city they operate in. This is only done after a thorough criminal record check.

When the new ridesharing law comes into effect, the chauffeur’s permit will no longer be required for any driver. In addition, criminal record checks will be done by the province, not local law enforcement.

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