Vancouver is a cosmopolitan city that offers residents and tourists seemingly everything under the sun, with a notable exception.

“We call it ridesharing,” said Ian Tostenson, a Vancouver resident. “Some people call it ride-hailing.”

CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy has this report.

Tostenson leads Ridesharing Now, a coalition working to incorporate ride sharing, hailing or sourcing into a transportation system he believes cries out for new ways of getting around.

“I’m in the hospitality business,” Tostenson said. “It’s embarrassing for us to have a city like Vancouver which is internationally recognized, had the Olympics here, all these different things, and we’re so far behind when it comes to ride sharing.”

It’s the only major Canadian city where ride-hailing has long been illegal. Cabs are the standard here. Tostenson and others argue a powerful local taxi industry has helped keep companies like Uber and Lyft from providing Vancouverites with the mobility option they need.

“Because there’s a lack of taxis available in Vancouver especially on rainy days, and it’s just more accessible and they’re also cheaper,” said one resident.

Enter Kater, Vancouver’s first legal hailing app and something of a hybrid. The company has been given 140 licenses by the local taxi association. Its vehicles, regulated like taxis, are matched with drivers who make a set wage. Those drivers don’t own the cars and are not responsible for maintaining them or for insurance. They pick them up at the start of their shifts and return them at the end of the day.

“We decided a scaled approach was a smart approach to launching new technology,” said Corrie Larson, Kater’s Communications Director. She said as part of this beta test, 30 of the startup’s cars are online right now. She predicts the concept will soon catch on.

“We fully anticipate that there will be other competitors entering into the market,” Larson added.

In fact, a host of illegal underground ride-hailing apps are already said to be doing big business serving Vancouver’s Chinese community. None of the companies we contacted responded to our requests for comment.

“They probably won’t pick you up if you’re not Asian,” Tostenson said. “They’re not going to speak English, so they’re very tightly controlled. It’s another reason the government should move sooner to try to legitimize all of this.”

The province of British Columbia recently announced it will begin accepting applications for ride hailing services beginning this fall. Some residents, who’ve heard stories about drivers harassing passengers, wonder if this type of transport is safe.

“I do think there’s a need for it but if there was less drama around all of it, it would be wonderful too,” said one resident.

Kater says safety is its top priority. Larson stressed ride hailing complements what Vancouver already offers.

“To match all of those great things with options in mobility, that’s the name of the game,” she said.

It’s a game this city finally appears willing to play.

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