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Don't 'beat up' illegal ride-hail passengers: Richmond councillor

A suggestion to target passengers who are using illegal ride-hailing services wasn't supported by the community safety committee.
Raccoon Go, an illegal ride-hailing service, advertises on WeChat "the best travelling experience."

A suggestion by Richmond city councillor to ask the province to fine passengers using illegal ride-hailing services didn’t receive much support at the community safety table.

Coun. Carol Day put the motion forward at a recent community safety meeting, but other councillors didn’t feel going after passengers was the right tack – rather they said there should be better enforcement and more accountability from the airport, where many of these rides are being hailed from.

Coun. Bill McNulty said he felt the focus should be on illegal drivers – not passengers - but he also said enforcement of illegal ride-hailing should be “more direct and forceful.”

“We’re beating up on the passenger – that’s not the person we need to beat up on,” McNulty said.

There are several illegal ride-hailing services operating in Richmond, like Raccoon Go and UDI-X. 

Legal ride-hailing services need to get a permit from the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) and drivers need to follow regulations such as having a Class 4 licence and undergoing a vulnerable-persons criminal record check.

The PTB has a list of approved ride-hailing services on its website. 

Mark Corrado, director of community bylaws and licencing with the city, said fining passengers would require a legislative change at the provincial level.

Coun. Andy Hobbs said, while illegal ride-hailing is a “serious issue,” he didn’t agree with going after the “victims,” that is, the passengers.

Furthermore, he said many of those using illegal ride-hailing services are tourists, international students or other foreigners, and their recourse to fight a ticket would be limited.

“The ability of them to contest (tickets) gets problematic,” Hobbs said.

Coun. Alexa Loo pointed out Vancouver International Airport has a “vetting process” for businesses that operate out of the airport. She suggested the city work through its YVR liaison to highlight the issue.

“Ask what they’re doing about people running businesses at YVR without YVR’s permission – I think they need to also look at this,” Loo said, adding the airport needs to ensure it’s a safe place.

“We want to make sure the integrity of our airport is maintained,” Loo added.

Day said her motion was to simply ask whether it's possible for the province to look into fining passengers.

“My worry is that is that something, a nightmare could happen,” Day said, adding, “I’m worried about things like rape and burglary. We have to do everything we can to protect the public and just putting this forward to the Passenger Transportation Branch at least lets them know what’s happening here in Richmond.”

The motion was seconded by Coun. Harold Steves, but it was defeated by the committee.

However, the committee did support sending a letter to the province and the PTB to look at penalties and create an education campaign.

A further referral, suggested by Loo, to reach out to the YVR liaison was also supported by the committee.