The provincial government has introduced legislation that will allow ride-hailing companies like Lyft and Uber to potentially start operating in B.C. in fall 2019.

If passed, the Passenger Transportation Amendment Act will let ICBC develop a ride-hailing insurance product for fall of 2019.

“This is milestone legislation that gets ride-hailing right for B.C.,” Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, said in a statement.

“British Columbians absolutely want more options and flexibility in how they get around, but with checks in place to make sure their ride is a safe one.”

All ride-hailing and taxi drivers will have to maintain a Class 4 passenger licence and undergo mandatory criminal checks.

According to the government, the legislation will also allow for a new, data-driven approach to improve taxi service and ride-hailing opportunities, particularly at high-demand locations and peak times, by strengthening the Passenger Transportation Board’s authority to determine fares, vehicle supply and operating areas. There will also be measures to make sure people are not left stranded when going from one municipality to another, an inclusion of a per-trip fee to fund more accessibility options for people with disabilities and stiffer penalties for taxi and ride-hailing companies not operating under the law.

A new legislative committee will be reviewing all of the changes. The government expects applications from ride-hailing companies wanting to enter the market will be submitted to the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) by fall 2019.

Green Leader Andrew Weaver said the NDP’s bill is a step forward, but he questions why the government has chosen to require driver training and class five licences rather than class four, which he says have been used successfully in Quebec.

Trevena said the experience of other jurisdictions has been used to develop British Columbia’s legislation, which is aimed at preventing gridlock, maintaining ridership on public transit, and reducing accidents caused by unsafe or inexperienced drivers.

Vancouver is one of the few major cities in Canada that does not permit ride-hailing.

The New Democrats, Liberals and Greens promised to bring in ride-hailing during the 2017 provincial election campaign.

An all-party committee of the legislature made 32 recommendations last February to help pave the way for ride-hailing.

The report highlighted five key areas that needed to be considered when establishing regulations for the industry including pricing, insurance, licensing, and public safety. The committee also recommended updating legislation that regulates the taxi industry to “allow for equitable and fair competition.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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