FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Coastal Rides is in the initial stages of recruiting drivers in Fort St. John in order to bring the ride-sharing company to the community.
Coastal Rides Founder Ryan Staley says the City of Fort St. John recently contacted him to discuss the possibility of launching in the community. This comes after the city received several complaints from the public indicating local taxi services are often unavailable or only available after an unacceptably long wait.
“[City staff] reached out to say they were hearing from the community that there’s a gap in Fort St. John that needs to be filled,” said Staley.
Coastal Rides is a ride-hailing service established in Sechelt and serving the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island.
Similar to Uber, Coastal Rides sets its fares in advance and can be booked by downloading its app.
Unlike Uber, Coastal Rides does not implement surge pricing, where fares increase drastically during peak times.
“Our pricing is more about making sure the driver is compensated appropriately for their time, both travelling with the customer, but also getting to them,” said Staley.
“We also pool riders together. We offer a slightly reduced rate if you’re willing to share the vehicle.”
Regarding recruitment, Staley says approximately six Fort St. John residents have expressed interest in driving for Coastal Rides.
“Our team will reach back out to them and try to work with them to make sure they have all the required, proper licensing, and to get all their documents together,” said Staley.
“If we can get half a dozen drivers actually signed up, we’ll be in a comfortable position to go forward with being in a community that size.”
After discussing the lack of transportation options in Fort St. John during a regular council meeting in July, city council directed staff to write a letter to Uber expressing interest in bringing the ride-sharing company to the community.
Councillor Byron Stewart also said he would like to invite the BC Passenger Transportation Board to Fort St. John to experience local taxi services firsthand. This prompted council to vote in favour of setting up a meeting with the board to discuss all ridesharing options available to the city, along with concerns surrounding local taxi services.
Last month, Super Cabs owner Mebin Veliyath was approved to operate two more cars after applying for five taxi licences in March.
In addition to Veliyath’s license, there are 21 licensees in Fort St. John, including Energetic Taxi Cab, Fort Cabs, and Teco Taxi.
Drivers interested in driving for Coastal Rides are required to possess a valid Class 1, 2, or 4 license and a vehicle 10 years old or newer. They must also pass criminal and driving background tests.
Staley says although the road test itself is a fairly easy process, booking the actual test with ICBC has been challenging for drivers in smaller communities.
“It can take several months before somebody can get a Class 4 road test in their community,” said Staley.
The Coastal Rides founder says it’s important for people who live in or visit small communities and don’t have access to a vehicle to have reliable transportation options.
“Having these options for people is really critical,” said Staley.
“If people want to go out for dinner and have a couple of drinks, or if they’re flying in or need to get an early flight, they need to know somebody is going to pick them up.”