Ride-hailing is desperately needed in Chilliwack and across the eastern Fraser Valley, say members of the East Fraser Valley Hospitality Group.
Marcel Maillet, owner of Character’s Pub, said the group has been lobbying every agency it can think of to increase the ride-hail transportation choices, for the communities east of Abbotsford.
“Currently we have customers waiting up to two hours for cabs,” Maillet said.
The East Fraser Valley Hospitality Group has met with reps from the City of Chilliwack, RCMP, ICBC and the downtown Chilliwack BIA on their quest to bring major services like Uber or Lyft to the region.
“Our city has grown as have the number of licensed establishments in Chilliwack,” Maillet pointed out. “With this growth we need to work together to expand the options for our customers, staff and tourists.”
With ride-hailing, or transportation network services (TNS) the passenger hires and pays for travelling to their destination in a passenger-directed vehicle through a website or mobile app using a credit card already on file.
Major Leagues manager Tyler Beveridge said the community has reached a tipping point in terms of need for this service.
“The time is now,” Beveridge said. “Chilliwack must be one of the few if only city with 100,000-plus populations without a major ride-hailing option available.”
Uber, and Lyft were approved to operate in Zone 1, spanning the entire Lower Mainland and Whistler, in January 2020, but they didn’t venture east of Langley until later. A few months after that City of Chilliwack approved “intermunicipal” licensing for ride-hail companies to operate across jurisdictional boundaries.
There were only seven pick-ups but 2,261 drop-offs in Chilliwack by ride-hailing operators in 2021.
Beveridge said it’s crucial for licensed pubs and bar staff in particular to be able to get their customers home safely, and relatively quickly, when taxi services are not available.
“When you’re serving alcohol, maybe your clientele chooses not to drive home?” he said. “And having the option of just clicking a button and seeing how long the ride is going to take, is huge. It really ensures public safety.”
The kind of growth Chilliwack has experienced means that long-established taxi companies can’t keep up with growing demand for service at peak times.
Individuals who want to drive for Uber for example would use their own vehicles, licensing and insurance.
There are Door Dash and Skip the Dishes drivers, but very few have applied to drive for Uber or other TNS companies.
“It’s about getting the drivers to apply,” Maillet said. “Nobody knows that’s the issue. We’re trying to get the word out.”
Drivers are required to have a Class 4 commercial driver’s licence in B.C. (or Class 1 or 2) , the minimum required for ride hailing, and other criteria. They apply through City of Vancouver.
The business licensing program is regulated through City of Vancouver for all participating cities. There’s a revenue-sharing program for licensing fees distributed proportionately among municipalities based on the number of pickups and dropoffs in each community.
With only seven ride hailing customers picked up here in Chilliwack, those numbers speak volumes about the challenges, said Trevor MacDonald, executive director of the Chilliwack Downtown Business Improvement Association.
His role is ensuring that everyone’s experience in downtown Chilliwack is “positive and safe.”
Other cities readily have the option of calling an Uber, or other operators, including Abbotsford.
“It would be just an incredible service to offer in Chilliwack,” he added.
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