Ontario bus-companies trying to shut down competition from ride-sharing groups

Jason sez, "Government subsidized private bus companies in Ontario are feeling threatened by ride-sharing services like Ridester.com and PickupPal.com, so they're getting the government to shut them down under some strange loophole. The former Environment Canada minister is asking for people to protest the current Ontario administration's idiocy to save PickupPal, the last remaining ride-sharing website. Ride-sharing websites match people who need a ride with drivers who have extra space. While some companies focus on daily commutes and errands, Pickuppal works on getting people to special events like concerts and sports games."
Bus companies enjoy a variety of subsidies in Ontario, including unencumbered access to HOV lanes...in a statement supporting the building of the HOV lanes and their use, the Ontario Government states: “Sharing a ride – as a driver or a passenger – may be easier than you think!”[2] The Ontario Government seems to be oblivious to its Public Vehicles Act, as administered by the Government's own OHTB, which could significantly undermine the viability of ridesharing in Ontario."
Save Eco-Friendly PickupPal in Ontario (Thanks, Jason!)

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  1. The obscure loophole they mention has already been used to shut down organized ride-sharing programs running out of the University of Waterloo (essentially shutting down transportation choices that would run when the “real” buses would offer no service) as well as the “AlloStop” ride- and cost-sharing service that would run routinely between Toronto and Montreal (and points in-between).

  2. I think Zimride still works in Ontario. I’m curious as to how the Ontario government is “shutting down” these services. Are they blocking web traffic, threatening legal action against the companies, or something else? (Disclaimer: I was a developer for Zimride, in Ontario ironically).

  3. In Montreal public transit has some sort of no-compete deal with the city. I worked at a place in the bottom of Old Montreal, which can be kind of awkward to get to by public transit (a couple of infrequent buses go thataways); when a group of companies in that area got together to offer a free shuttle service for employees from the closest metro to a few of the offices, the STCUM got it shut down under some rule that prohibits the operating of another transport service if there is a single bus stop with 50 feet.
    Still makes me angry… they weren’t losing any money as we all had to get to that metro station t begin with, it just made our commute easier after that point and gave everyone the warm fuzzies that our employers gave a damn. But noooooooo.

  4. @sleze,

    Wow that boggles!
    S.19 says the driver can’t get drunk on his day off
    +1 morality police
    S.21 says a driver can refuse to pick up someone using a bad word
    +1 morality police again, AND +1 logic failure ! Woohoo!

  5. Anytime I ever ask for a reason for a law or rule I always get a blank response- it seems nobody ever knows the reason, or who drafted it (assuming that person had a reason)

  6. Gee, you think some legislator has a friend in the transportation industry? Ridiculous. But I also have to ask, how are they shutting the sites down?

  7. As a current employee of the transit “company” in my town, this seems crazy. We actually do events to promote carpooling and ride sharing serviceshere, as it keeps OUR costs down. There’s no money to be made in operating city transit (that actually is usuable).

    While I work in the administration office, I’m not really up on all the specific numbers, but 30% of of your revenue is required to come from fares in order to qualify for federal DOT funding. I know we do much better than that, but anything left over after operating costs just goes back into more buses, better maintenence facilities, or installing an 8 billion dollar light rail infrastructure.

    But maybe that 30% federal funding thing is the crux of it all. Maybe in Canada there’s no government funds alotted to subsidize transit? That seems crazy because of Canada’s comparatively high tax rate.

  8. Enoch Rewt – there certainly is government funding of transit in Canada. I don’t know about Montreal specifically, but in general city transit systems are heavily subsidized here.

  9. I’m really confused. IANAL, but that act says:

    BEGIN LEGALESE:

    “car pool vehicle” means a motor vehicle as defined in the Highway Traffic Act,

    (a) with a seating capacity of not more than twelve persons,

    (b) while it is operated transporting no more than twelve commuters including the driver, none of whom pay for the transportation more frequently than on a weekly basis,

    (c) that is not used by any one driver to transport commuters for more than one round trip per day, and

    (d) the owner, or if the vehicle is subject to a lease, the lessee, of which does not own or lease another car pool vehicle unless the owner or lessee is the employer of a majority of the commuters transported in the vehicles,

    but does not include a motor vehicle while being operated by or under contract with a school board or other authority in charge of a school for the transportation of children to or from school

    “public vehicle” means a motor vehicle operated on a highway […] but does not include the cars of electric or steam railways running only upon rails, taxicabs, car pool vehicles, …

    END LEGALESE

    I’m baffled as to how they manage to define the services being offered by Pickuppal (presumably exactly what the “car pool vehicle” definition was meant to cover) to apply to “public vehicles”.

  10. Hmmm, well actually, I guess it basically says you can’t carpool if you charge more than once per week, give people a lift more than once per day, or own more than one car.

    I’d also guess it wouldn’t be too hard to find cases where Pickuppal had arranged carpool rides that violate these regulations.

    “What, he transported the passenger from the airport in the morning, and to the rock concert in the evening? Of the same day? He needs a license for that!”

  11. It’s just a web service. So move it offshore – Canada, Europe, anywhere. Let’s see how Ontario’s lawyers could cope with a server located in Sweden. We can rebuild the world, we have the technology. Screw the government. Or do we have to bow down and obey every such silliness?

  12. This is the same province whose hydroelectric utility threatened to raise rates unless residents cut back dramatically on their use of electricity.

    Residents did exactly that.

    The utility raised rates anyway — to cover the shortfall in their profits caused by people using less electricity.

    /bangs head against wall/

  13. They already got rid of one such service many years ago. When I was a student in Montreal, I would travel back to my hometown once a month, just outside of Ottawa, using the Allo Stop shared ride service. It cost me 10$ per ride as opposed to 50$ if I took the bus. Then one day they shut down their office in Ottawa. The service remained (remains?) active in Quebec however, but was now useless for getting me to Ottawa. I heard it had something to do with the bus companies claiming unfair competition. Until I later got a car, I used an online bulletin board to get some rides.

  14. There is really only one fight here and that is we need to change the law.

    Trentway-Wagar went after us because we are growing very quickly and saw the writing on the wall. We launched in January and now we have over 100K members worldwide so that spooked them. The only way to make this legal is to change the law – sounds like an uphill battle – however that is the battle we are going for.

    Bottom line is either speak out against the hypocrisy or succumb to it. PickupPal operates around the world without issue, allowing Passengers and Drivers to find each other all 100% free. We are still matching Drivers and Passengers in Ontario right now and will continue until we get the official shutdown notice following our court appearance on October 15th. There are no loopholes on this one so we have to take on the legislation itself.
    If you want to know more about this issue send me an email – eric@pickuppal.com.

    Cheers – Eric
    CTO and Co-founder of PickupPal.com

    P.S. To all of you who have signed the petition I thank you – your voice and support is what will change this law – the government is listening.

  15. I remember people saying the same things when the Ontario government shut down EcoRide about 8-9 years ago. Similar services like Allo Stop were allowed to continue because they were HQ’d in Quebec. Is that still the case? and if so, why don’t the companies just operate from outside ON?

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