The Richmond News was one of the first Uber customers in the city on Friday lunchtime, after the ride-hailing giant kicked off its local operations.
However, that didn’t stop the News’ director of advertising, Rob Akimow, leaping into his first Uber-operated car in Richmond, en route back from McDonald’s on Alderbridge Way to the News’ office on Ackroyd Road.
To test out the service, Akimow ordered the Uber at 1:05 p.m., with two possible drivers showing on the Uber app.
An initial wait-time of 16 minutes, said Akimow, quickly dropped to three minutes, with a $7.02 fare estimated for the 1.23 kilometre-trip.
“It’s exactly what it should be…I’d have no problems using it again,” said Akimow, who has used Uber and Lyft in several cities across the U.S.
“A white Honda Accord arrived, right on time, with an Uber decal on the windshield.
“I did order UberX (which is ride-sharing with strangers who’re on a similar route), but no one else jumped in before or during the trip.”
The driver, a Richmond resident, told Akimow this was his first day working as a ride-hailing operator and that he’d done almost 10 rides today already.
“He said he only signed up with Uber a couple of days ago,” added Akimow.
“His English was pretty good, he could communicate freely.”
The driver told Akimow that he has another full-time job and was doing the Uber driving on the side.
Down the line, he said he may consider doubling, or tripling, up to offer rides with other ride-hailing apps.
“He said he was expecting it to be busy due to Chinese New Year and that everyone has been really friendly,” said Akimow, who rated the driver the maximum five stars on the Uber app.
YVR confirmed to the News Friday morning that Lyft and Uber have permission to operate at the airport.
Uber told the News today it plans to apply for the Inter-Municipal Business Licence, which is expected to be put in place by the end of the month by TransLink’s Mayors’ Council.
The business licence Lyft applied for in Richmond allows them to have an unlimited number of ride-hailing vehicles operating in the city – the business licence rules are the same as for cab companies, explained city spokesperson Clay Adams.
Uber and Lyft got the green light from the province on Thursday to operate in Richmond as well as the rest of the Lower Mainland.
The announcement came from the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) which approves taxis and ride-hailing.
According to a press release, Lyft is currently accepting applications from interested drivers, and they’ve opened a “driver hub” in Richmond.
They’ve also partnered with Valley Driving School to help anyone wanting to be a driver to get their Class 4 driver’s license.
“We are thrilled to have received approval from the Passenger Transportation Board and are excited to bring Lyft’s ridesharing service to the region,” said Peter Lukomskyj, general manager of Lyft in B.C.
Ride-hailing companies will need to get a licence from the City of Richmond to operate here – that will be after they receive a licence from the PTB.
Richmond is working with other Lower Mainland municipalities on an inter-municipal business licence approach for ride-hailing services, explained Adams. A draft is expected by the end of the month.
In September, Richmond council approved an interim approach whereby ride-hailing could be licenced like taxis after they were approved by the PTB, Adams added.
The Minister of Transportation, Claire Trevena, released a statement after the decision saying the government has being developing a “framework that puts passenger safety first,” and that the companies will comply with the “highest safety standards” on the continent.
“In the board’s decisions, it has committed to closely monitoring fleet sizes and minimum pricing to avoid potential impacts on traffic congestion and to ensure adequate incomes for drivers,” she added.
An application for Kater Technologies to operate in the Lower Mainland was denied by the PTB.
Richmond council was lobbying the provincial government this fall to level the playing field between the taxi industry and ride hailing, for example, to make the rules the same vis-a-vis a cap on the number of vehicles in their fleets, insurance and geographical limits.
- With files from Maria Rantanen