The provincial government of B.C. has pledged that ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft will be legal in the province by the end of this year.
In addition, the government made a commitment to sustain the province’s taxi ecosystem, outlining several initiatives to create what it calls, “a level playing field.”
After more than a year of consultation on how to regulate ride-hailing without decimating the taxicab industry, Transportation Minister Todd Stone and TransLink Minister Peter Fassbender made the announcement in Vancouver on Tuesday.
The government will dedicate $1 million to the provincial taxicab industry to help it develop an app to compete with Uber. In addition, auto insurance provider ICBC will give $3.5 million to equip B.C. taxicabs with crash avoidance technology and improve the insurance system for ride-hailing.
The representatives went on to say that the province will phase out Class 4 taxi licenses, which will be replaced by criminal background checks, safe driving record checks and vehicle inspections.
In addition, taxicabs will retain the exclusive right to be hired by phone, at a taxi stand, or to be flagged down by a pedestrian on the curb. The government also removed the municipal borders on the industry, meaning that taxicabs will be allowed to operate anywhere.
Uber and B.C. have a complicated history. After previously being kicked out of province due to an aggressive taxi industry, the San Francisco-based ride-hailing company lobbied the provincial government for a year to properly regulate it. The service came under fire in multiple cities across Canada over 2016 and just recently became legal in the City of Toronto last year.
In addition, the company has been embroiled in controversy for the past few months, including complaints about sexism, instituting surge pricing during events like severe rainstorms, and an intellectual property legal battle Google’s driverless car unit Waymo.