New analysis reveals why it’s so hard to catch a cab in Vancouver

By Marina Wang

Almost anyone that’s been out for a late night in downtown Vancouver has found themselves in a predicament: calling a cab is pricey, not to mention difficult, while the bus journey, if possible, is long and grueling. Uber is not an option. You’re essentially stuck.

A new report from Hara Associates  prepared for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has shed light on why hailing a cab in Vancouver is so difficult and proposed methods of modernizing the Vancouver taxi system. It arrives at time when roll-out of ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft has been delayed until the end of 2019.

“At the heart of consumer and business concerns over BC taxi service is supply,” reads the report. “Non-industry stakeholders stated clearly that they want more and better vehicle-for-hire service.”

The report highlighted the application process for new cab carriers as a “barrier for entry”. BC does not limit the number of taxis on the road, but prospective for-hire services are required to prove the need for a new service to the Passenger Transportation Board. This is compounded by competitors being able to argue that enough cabs are in service, and there is no need for a new taxi service.

In addition, a slew of jurisdictional regulations make operating cabs difficult: in metro Vancouver, pickups are largely only permitted by local Vancouver companies, and any driver that wishes to pick up passengers from the airport need multiple chauffeur permits from different municipalities. Cab companies also require drivers to have a Class 4 license—something that can take new immigrants three years to obtain.

The report also highlighted cab access for disabled passengers as an issue, as well as service in First Nations and some rural communities.

Recommended changes include throwing out the Class 4 license requirement, developing a usage-based insurance for part-time drivers, having a new framework to fund accessible taxi services, allowing companies to discount rates under certain conditions and having the provincial authority oversee chauffeur permits.