A new ride-hailing company is offering the first glimpse of hope for Okanagan residents who want a taste of what the rest of North American commuters already have.
TappCar, which is already running in Edmonton, Grand Prairie and Winnipeg, announced Tuesday it will file an application with the B.C. Passenger Transportation Board to offer services across the province.
On Thursday, a company called uRide also submitted its application.
If approved, the companies would be the first ride-hailing services to operate outside of the Lower Mainland. Earlier this month, Uber and Lyft both said they plan to operate only within the Lower Mainland area, citing concerns over being able to hire enough drivers.
Kelowna city Coun. Ryan Donn, who previously criticized the B.C. government’s requirement for drivers to have a Class 4 license, told the Kelowna Capital News he’s thrilled a company is finally looking to the Okanagan.
“To get ride hailing as an option in Kelowna would be phenomenal because that’s really been the push,” Donn said in a phone interview Wednesday.
He said he’ll look for the city to help encourage residents to get proper licensing and become drivers.
In Alberta, where TappCar is based, ride-hailing drivers must also have their Class 4 licence. Company spokesperson Pascal Ryffel told Black Press Media the company is prepared to meet the same requirements here in B.C.
Donn said while TappCar will help ease the demand among the locals, including students at UBC Okanagan, one of the challenges will be informing tourists and newcomers about a service not as well-known as Uber or Lyft.
He pointed to the Okanagan Gateway Transportation Study underway in the city, which may include how ride hailing will roll out at the Kelowna International Airport.
“Everyone that arrives at the airport already knows Uber—they have the Uber app already downloaded, they have their credit card already loaded. It’s something familiar to them,” Donn said.
“The tourist market is where this may not be as strong… I think this is really going to be a local solution, perhaps.”
Similar to larger B.C. cities like Vancouver and Victoria, safety is a top concern among locals who find themselves struggling to find a ride at night and on weekends.
“We have the same issue as Vancouver has, at peak times there is no safe ride home option available in the community,” he said.
Donn has been a vocal supporter of increasing transportation in the region and receives experiences from locals as they struggle to get a ride regularly. That includes two days ago, he said, when a resident told him they waited two hours at 2 a.m.
“At some point, they don’t have an option at 2 a.m., and they’re having to make a choice and some of them aren’t making the best choices. That’s why we have one of the highest drinking and driving rates in B.C., and that’s unfortunate. People are forced to make bad choices because they need to get home.”
Ryffel said TappCar hopes to hit the road later this year, pending approval by the transportation passenger board.
– With files from Katya Slepian, Black Press Media