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Regulator rejects Uber's application to operate outside Lower Mainland and Whistler

29-page decision says pandemic resulted in less passenger volume
"It's kind of ridiculous," says Kelowna city councillor Ryan Donn of the PTB's decision | Photo: d3sign, Getty Images

Consumers awaiting the arrival of ride-hailing giant Uber into the B.C. marketplace outside of the Lower Mainland will have to wait awhile longer.

The provincial Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) has denied Uber's application to provide its ride hailing service to communities outside the Lower Mainland.

Uber, which is already licensed in the Lower Mainland and Whistler region, applied to expand the service to the rest of the province in September of last year.

A decision had been expected last December, but was put off while the PTB investigated the effects COVID had on the transportation industry.

The report stated in part the pandemic resulted in a decline in customers and less passenger volume.

"The board is concerned that granting this application at this time would unduly harm existing TNCs and taxi companies. It finds the markets in the regions applied for are unable to absorb more competition at this time," the 29-page decision concluded.

"Having given due consideration to all of the evidence and submissions, the board refuses the application at this time."

The decision stated Uber is "fit, proper and capable" of providing the service it applied for, but the board was "not convinced there exists a public need for the service applied for."

The decision frustrated Kelowna city councillor Ryan Donn, a strong advocate for ride hailing.

"We don't have enough safe ride home options," said Donn.

"It's kind of ridiculous, we have an international airport, but people can't get an Uber."

The decision, says Donn, feels highly political.

He says the PTB is not listening to the needs of the municipalities who are providing input to the PTB.

"The municipality has been very strong in saying we want this service in our community. We have transportation master plans, we have pushed the envelope with scooter share and e-bike share, but we can't get ride share.

"Ride share was something that was new what, 10 years ago. We are trying to be at the forefront of transportation but we can't get some basic thing that's allowed in other parts of the province."

Uber representatives say they are also disappointed in the decision, and will review the full decision before determining next steps in the coming weeks.

"The Passenger Transportation Board’s decision is surprising, disappointing, anti-competitive and inconsistent with what we hear from communities like Victoria and Kelowna," Uber says in a statement.

"There is meaningful public demand for ridesharing services, as demonstrated by the support from local community and business organizations, and the strong uptake of ridesharing in Metro Vancouver since we launched. British Columbians have been clear that they want access to the same safe, reliable rides available in communities around the world."

Taxi companies across the province submitted briefs opposing Uber