Uber posted a video to its Facebook page on Halloween of this year in an effort to gain regulatory approval in Vancouver, something they have been trying to do for the past 4 years.

By now it is no secret: Vancouver — that progressive, tech-savvy, rapidly expanding metropolis — is currently Uber-less. And depending on who you talk to, the reaction of this sad fact ranges from “embarrassing” to “outrageous” to “a joke”. It only takes a couple of days in Vancouver to realize that our taxi system is shamefully inadequate, and for those who live here, it is a constant and annoying pain in the ass. If ever a solution was needed to a growing and glaring problem, this is it. But even with the solution standing by, nothing has happened.

But when we consider that Uber currently operates in over 400 cities worldwide (including Edmonton, as Uber’s new ad points out), we can only wonder: what makes Vancouver so special?

Vancouver’s taxi and transportation system is inadequate; Uber (and others) can help make it better. Therefore, the city should have Uber.

Alfred Marshall should also be turning in his grave because it is the most basic of supply and demand situations. The public is demanding the supply of a needed service. Over 72,000 Vancouverites have signed Uber’s online petition. A recent survey by the Vancouver Board of Trade indicated that eighty percent of its members want Uber in Vancouver. Over 200,000 people Vancouverites have downloaded the Uber app. So why isn’t it the service being supplied?

The easiest answer can be given in one word: government. But we all know that politics is never easy. Making something happen politically — especially in a city like Vancouver — generally involves a web of channels, red tape, and special interests. And Uber has been caught in that web for far too long. In basic terms, three groups of stakeholders are in play: Uber, taxi companies, the general public; and then there is the government, who must ultimately make the final decision.

Pilcrow Uber promotional material
1969 Car Ad, Continental Mark III and Lincoln Continental, Lincoln-Mercury Ford (2-page advert)” by Classic Film — CC BY-NC 2.0. Image Modified.

But even though two of the three stakeholders would like to see Uber operating in Vancouver, the Provincial Government seems to be dragging its feet. The reasons for this are a tad murky, but pressure from taxi companies and logistical concerns are near the top of the list, with Uber’s spotty track record in some cities perhaps playing a role as well. What makes things murkier is that the issue has ping-ponged between both city and the Province, neither of whom are willing to take a stance.

As of now, it seems to be in the Province’s hands, where a small trail of consultations, reports and committees — begun in January of 2016 — will apparently lead to some sort of announcement (or — gasp! — a decision) sometime in early 2017. What this will look like, or whether this will pave the way for Uber’s regulation, no one really knows.

According to Vancouver City Councillor Geoff Meggs, the city is content to let the Province make its report before moving forward on the issue.

“[The city] is now waiting for a provincial process to unfold to set policy,” Meggs confirmed. “The entire province is without ridesharing, and insurance is one of the key issues to resolve, along with the future of the existing industry.”

The “existing industry” is, of course, taxi companies, who certainly have more political clout than Uber. And the fact that “insurance” is one of the key issues to resolve brings ICBC into the fold, which is not a hopeful sign for those wanting Uber in Vancouver any time soon.

Yellow taxi driving by
blurry yellow orange taxi” by Roland Tanglao — CC BY 2.0