Ride-hailing giant Uber is hoping to begin operations in the rest of British Columbia before the end of the year, but the company isn't going the traditional route of applying for a license with the BC Passenger Transportation Board (PTB).
Instead, Uber is reportedly seeking to acquire the license of an existing ride-hailing company, a license that grants permission to operate in the regions of BC that Uber is currently barred from.
Uber's initial license application to enter the Vancouver market was approved in January 2020, but the company's application was only for Region 1, which consists of the Lower Mainland and Whistler. "Expansion into other areas of the Province is contemplated after the initial roll out into Region 1", the PTB noted in its decision at the time.
Uber sought out that expansion in 2020, filing an application to operate in the remaining four regions, which together make up the rest of the province. That application, however, was denied in December 2021. "Uber is fit, proper, and capable of providing the proposed service", the PTB said in its decision. "In the current circumstances, however, the Board is not convinced that there exists a public need for the service applied for."
Additionally, the PTB added that "the Application, if granted at this time, would not promote sound economic conditions in the passenger transportation business in BC", an allusion to the province's taxi industry, which was strongly opposed to the introduction of ride-hailing. In the analysis section of the Board's decision, it noted that the introduction of ride-hailing in Region 1 "led to a significant loss of market share on the part of taxis."
With a traditional application failing, Uber is now taking the unorthodox approach of trying to acquire -- via a "transfer" -- the license of an existing ride-hailing company. The name of the company whose license Uber is seeking to acquire has not been revealed.
However, since the Passenger Transportation Board began accepting applications in 2019 from ride-hailing services -- officially called Transportation Network Services (TNS) in BC -- there have only been a small handful of companies that were granted a license to operate in the regions Uber is now seeking to expand into.
According the PTB's list of TNS license decisions, those companies include, in chronological order based on the decision date: Kabu-Ride, LTG Technologies, Ripe Holdings, InOrbis, ReRyde, and URide. The first four companies were granted licenses to operate in all five regions, while the latter two were granted to operate in Regions 2, 3, 4, and 5, which is all Uber really needs.
When reached for comment, an Uber Canada spokesperson could not confirm the identity of the unnamed company. STOREYS has also reached out to several of the above companies to seek confirmation.
The name of the company whose license Uber is trying to acquire is expected to be made public in the PTB's next weekly bulletin, on September 7.
This story has been updated to reflect requests for comment.