Uber launches in Greater Victoria, including at YYJ and Swartz Bay

Uber launches in Greater Victoria, including at YYJ and Swartz Bay
Ben Nelms/CBC

Uber has officially launched its ride-hailing app in Greater Victoria, including at Victoria International Airport (YYJ) and the Swartz Bay ferry terminal.

The launch comes just in time for the busy summer season and allows locals and visitors coming through YYJ “a safe, reliable option” to get them where they need to go, according to Uber Canada’s general manager Michael van Hemmen.

On Tuesday, CHEK News attended the ride-hailing giant’s official launch at the Harbour Air Seaplanes Terminal to witness the city’s first rides.

“And for those with a safe driving record, a flexible opportunity to earn money on their own time. We’d like to thank the city governments in both cities, the province, and Victoria Airport Authority for their support in bringing ridesharing to Victoria and Kelowna,” said Hemmen.

Uber’s service extends to Greater Victoria, from Langford to downtown Victoria to the Saanich Peninsula, including Swartz Bay, according to YYJ in a release Tuesday.

“The airport is pleased to welcome Uber,” said YYJ president and CEO Geoff Dickson. “It’s been a long journey for Uber to operate in Greater Victoria.”

Destination Greater Victoria CEO Paul Nursey says Victoria is “keeping up with the rest of the world,” while Mayor Marianne Alto notes that commuters now have another option to get around the region.

“And certainly for folks who work odd hours or late hours or early hours, being able to have Uber as one way to get home safely is absolutely an important thing,” she said.

(This map outlines Uber’s service area for Greater Victoria. Screenshot: Uber.com)

It was on May 10 when B.C.’s Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) announced it had approved a transportation network services transfer application from ReRyde to Uber, meaning the company’s flagship service could operate on Vancouver Island.

“What was important for me was to see the province evening the playing field between rideshare and cab companies,” said Alto.

“Obviously now, rideshare drivers and their cars have to meet a similar standard, and so it’s a legitimate choice now and I suspect a lot of people are going to choose it.”

In a 60-page PTB decision document, the board said 40 organizations expressed interest in Uber operating in Victoria and Kelowna, though only seven were in favour.

Uber was approved for Metro Vancouver back in January 2020.

Uber in B.C.’s capital: A bumpy road to fruition

In December 2021, the PTB rejected its ride-hailing application to expand to Victoria, saying it would harm existing rideshare and taxi companies in the area. The following August, Uber reapplied to operate locally under ReRyde’s license but met with mixed reactions and, ultimately, another denied application.

While local officials like former Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps were in support of Uber operating locally, saying there was an “immediate demand for these services,” taxi operators were opposed.

“We, in the taxi industry, cannot survive with the unfair competition,” said Mohan Kang, president of the BC Taxi Association, in an interview with CHEK News.

Last week, Uber Canada’s Keerthana Rang said the company was “encouraging drivers to sign up” since “demand is going to be high.”

SEE MAY 30 STORY: Drivers gearing up for Victoria’s Uber launch

Potential Uber drivers like Langford resident Logan Sanders were excited when the service put out a call for people to fill out its fleet.

“I love driving my car, driving around the city, meeting people, and Uber has been a huge opportunity to have people in my car. The social aspect of it that food (delivery apps) do not give you,” said Sanders in an interview.

‘We’d love to have more drivers,’ says general manager

Hemmen echoes Rang, saying Uber needs as many Victoria-area drivers as it can get.

“It takes a number of months to build up the number of drivers to meet the amount of consumer demand that is already in place,” he said.

“We’re just asking people to be patient, to be courteous to drivers. When they do pick you up, it may have been a little bit longer wait than you hoped, but we’re really excited that, over time, Victoria residents are going to have the same great Uber service that other Canadians have across the country.”

The company’s apps, including Uber Driver where potential ride-share drivers can register, are available for download in the Apple and Google Play stores.

“If you’re retired, if you’re a student…if you’re anyone, if you’re in Victoria and looking to make some extra money…” added Hemmen, encouraging people to sign up online.

“We’d love to have more drivers.”

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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