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Friday, June 2, 2023
June 2, 2023

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Vancouver ready to replace taxi code

New statute could level playing field for old-style cab companies, networks

By , Columbian Small Cities Reporter

• What: Vancouver City Council hearing on new taxi code.

• Where:
Council chambers, City Hall, 415 West Sixth St., Vancouver

• When:
7 p.m. Monday

• Information:

Seven months after Uber pulled into Vancouver, the city may finally be ready to allow the popular ride-sharing company to legally do business.

In mid-July, the San Francisco-based company held a soft launch of its fast-growing UberX app in Vancouver. The smartphone-based service lets riders connect with non-taxi drivers in the Uber network via text message, and the company’s fares tend to be far lower than traditional cab services charge.

The Portland-Vancouver area is already home to hundreds of Uber drivers, and dozens of them work in Vancouver, said Brooke Steger, the general manager of the company’s Seattle arm. That’s despite the absence of any regulatory framework that would allow transportation network companies — like Uber and Lyft — to pick up riders in Vancouver.

But the Vancouver City Council is poised to settle the issue by replacing the taxi code, and a decision could come as soon as Monday. The council will host a public hearing on a draft of the proposed new code Monday night, clearing the way for a vote.

&#8226; What: Vancouver City Council hearing on new taxi code.

&#8226; Where: Council chambers, City Hall, 415 West Sixth St., Vancouver

&#8226; When: 7 p.m. Monday

&#8226; Information: <a href="http://www.cityofvancouver.us/citycouncil">http://www.cityofvancouver.us/citycouncil</a>

In the past several months, Uber has taken off throughout the Northwest, with a growing presence in the Puget Sound area and Spokane. The city of Portland has taken a decidedly colder approach to the company, suing Uber three days after its launch there in December and asking a judge to halt all Uber operations in the city.

Uber temporarily pulled out of Portland shortly after, suspending operations for three months to give the city time to update its taxi regulations. Mayor Charlie Hales said the company could resume business in Portland by April 9, after a task force comes back with recommendations for taxi code revisions.

North of the Columbia River, Vancouver city councilors have been at odds over how strictly to regulate transportation network companies. Nonetheless, they share concerns about a few major points: ensuring rider safety and driver qualifications and creating a level playing field between cab companies and the new wave of ride-sharing networks.

Vancouver’s three traditional taxi companies — Broadway Cab, Vancouver Cab and Radio Cab — are held to a code written in 1939. The city’s made a number of modifications since then, but as it stands, the taxi code doesn’t accommodate new business models.

The new code would impose the same standards for driver background checks, training, safety, insurance and operations on both the legacy cab companies and the new ride-sharing networks. Each would also be charged an annual $200 certification fee for a special license to operate in Vancouver.

Companies caught violating the law would have to pay a fine up to $10,000 for every driver without the business license. Every unlicensed driver would also be slapped with a fine up to $1,000 for each violation of the law they commit. Failing to comply would be a misdemeanor, and it could land a driver up to a year in jail.

Columbian Small Cities Reporter