Uber Canada’s Mike van Hemmen speaks to the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce Thursday.—Image: Alistair Waters/Capital News

Uber official says public needs to push for ridesharing in B.C.

Mike van Hemmen tells Kelowna Chamber of commerce ridesharing would be ‘win-win-win’

Uber Canada’s senior manager in B.C. says the introduction of ridesharing in this province would be a “win-win-win” for all involved.

And Mike van Hemmen says it’s clear the public wants to see the service given more than 200,000 people have now downloaded his company’s app

Van Hemmem spoke at a Kelowna Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday and after explaining how Uber works, said he was pleased to hear a provincial legislative committee is being tasked with putting together recommendations for government that could see ridesharing introduced in B.C. starting next year.

“We’re very excited about the potential of bringing ridesharing and Uber to Kelowna and to be able to bring an additional transportation option that will work in collaboration with public transit and biking and walking and make our community much more pleasurable to live in,” he said.

Pressure has been growing on the province to allow ridesharing companies such as Uber to operate in B.C. and during the last provincial election, the NDP said if it won, ridesharing would be in place before the end of the year.

But it put the brakes on that promise after wrestling power from the former Liberal government, only to be pushed in that direction by the B.C. Green Party helping to prop up Premier John Horgan’s minority government.

In Kelowna, van Hemmen said Uber is now operating in 40 Canadian cities (all outside B.C.) and in the last three months provided 21 million rides. A total of 45,000 drivers made money through providing Uber services in that same length of time, he added.

Uber uses private vehicle owners to provide private taxi service accessible through an app on mobile devices that allow users to hail a ride. Drivers go through security checks and passengers know in advance about the driver and their rating by other Uber customers. They also have the ability to share their information about the driver and their trip with others in real time as an additional level of security.

Concern by the taxi industry has helped keep rideshare companies out of B.C. and van Hemmen said he sees ridesharing as just another transportation option, not one aimed at putting taxi companies out of business. In fact, he said, Uber’s busiest times are late at night when taxis are often hardest to find.

He also said U.S. research has shown people who like to rideshare are also more apt to use public transportation at other time.

The San Francisco-based company has also been piloting other ways of ridesharing such as uberPOOL, a service that lets unrelated customers on the same route share an Uber ride, thus reducing the cost for riders. And the company is testing automated driverless vehicles providing rides in some U.S. cities, including Pittsburgh.

As for making sure ridesharing is allowed in B.C., van Hemmen said that will be up to the public to make its choice heard by lobbying the provincial government.

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