Kelowna mayor “very disappointed” with no Uber ridesharing service in Okanagan this summer
The mayor of the largest city in the Okanagan said he was “very disappointed” that the Passenger Transportation Board has delayed the decision to allow Uber to operate in the Okanagan.
“I don’t understand the reason for the delay,” said Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran.
“We know that people in our community would like to have more choice when it comes to getting around and I think that’s disappointing for a lot of people.”
In a preliminary ruling dated April 20, the Transportation Board (PTB) adjourned Uber’s request to expand its business province-wide, including in the Okanagan and Kootenay areas, as well. than in the Boundary, Cariboo, North Central, Vancouver Island and Capital Regional District areas of British Columbia.
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The council, which is an independent tribunal, said it needed an additional 3 to 6 months to investigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the passenger transportation industry.
“The investigator will provide a report to the board of directors indicating whether there is a public need for the proposed service … and whether the [application] may have potential impacts on healthy economic conditions in the passenger transportation industry given the continued impacts of COVID-19 on the economy of British Columbia in general, ”the council wrote in its decision.
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Uber, the world’s largest rideshare company, initially submitted its service extension request on August 31, 2020.
Basran said British Columbians are expected to flock to the Okanagan, as British Columbia lifted its inter-provincial travel ban on Tuesday, and tourists will be left with limited transportation options.
“We know it will be very busy here this summer,” he said.
“The potential is there for us to have the busiest tourist season we’ve ever had. I think Kelowna will be the destination of choice, not only for western Canada, but I think the whole country, so we’re going to need more mobility options.
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Ryan Donn, a Kelowna city councilor who has long been a fan of ridesharing, called the study a “waste of time.”
“There really is no reason for further delays. We are now five years behind most major urban centers around the world to get rideshare, ”Donn said.
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“Uber is a brand that people know when they step off at our international airport. They can open the app they know and access an internationally renowned amusement ride system, but they can’t, ”he said.
Donn called Uber’s absence in Kelowna embarrassing and frustrating.
“It sounds like a political delay,” he said. “COVID does not affect the need for transportation. “
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British Columbia’s taxi industry lobbied against Uber’s arrival in British Columbia, and several taxi companies – Checkmate Cabs, Kami Cabs, Kelowna Cabs, and Penticton Klassic Kabs – have submitted letters s’ opposing the expansion of the rideshare company in the Okanagan.
They claimed that allowing Uber to grow during the health crisis was “not in the public interest.”
“I understand why the taxi industry is fearful or, in some cases, opposed. But at the end of the day, it’s a service that people want and industries have to adapt and change, ”Basran said.
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In an email to Global News, Uber said “there is a strong demand from Okanagan residents and visitors for ride-sharing services. As BC’s restart plan moves forward, we’re poised to launch Uber’s Kelowna rideshare app, providing flexible earning opportunities for drivers and convenient, reliable travel options for the community.
In its submission, Uber urged the board not to delay the expansion of its services, as the COVID-19 investigation would be “not applicable” at the time of its publication.
Donn said that following the PTB decision, he hopes to see Uber ridesharing services operating in the Okanagan by Christmas.
The company has been offering rides in Metro Vancouver since January 2020, after a long battle with the provincial government.
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