UBC Graduate Research

Transportation Network Companies & Accessibility : How Other Jurisdictions are Navigating Accessibility Issues in an Evolving Vehicle-For Hire Industry & Ideas for B.C. Ward, Daniel


The vehicle-for-hire industry has undergone dramatic change in very short order. Advances in mobile technologies and the corresponding ascent of the smartphone have opened up new innovations that allow digital platforms to dynamically connect spare capacity with those who need it.1 These changes have spawned companies like Uber and Lyft (also known as transportation network companies or TNCs) and their growing array of services, which have been well received by consumers. For persons with disabilities, however, for whom on-demand transportation options are critical for their engagement in regular activities many non-disabled people take for granted, these new services have received mixed reviews and governments have been challenged with how to address these concerns in their regulatory overhauls. In recognition of this challenge, the B.C. Passenger Transportation Branch (PTB)—an administrative unit that supports activities relating to the regulation of commercial passenger transportation—partnered with a graduate student (herein referred to as “the researcher”) at the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning to study the issue of accessibility and the associated challenges with the emergence of transportation network companies. As part of the PTB’s mandate for policy research, the PTB directed the researcher to survey regulatory changes that have occurred in other jurisdictions in light of the technological and economic changes taking place in the vehicle-for-hire sector and report back regarding how these jurisdictions have addressed issues associated with accessibility to persons with disabilities. The researcher examined six jurisdictions: three in Canada and in from the United States. In helping frame the issue for B.C. and—more specifically— the Vancouver metropolitan area context, the researcher conducted primary research to understand the accessibility challenges in the regional context and to help frame the topic of accessibility within the for-hire sector. This report found a range of approaches and actions in the six cities that were studied. Here are some key findings: • Five out of six cities had policies that included the establishment of a publicly administrated accessibility fund, which would receive revenues from the vehiclefor- hire sector that would be used to improve accessible transportation options. • Half of the cities require TNC’s to provide accessible service. • Utilization of taxi wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) is important to success of TNC’s WAV service

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