Note 28 Jan 2020: This article was written before ride hailing was permitted in Vancouver. As of the end of January 2020, Uber and Lyft are in Vancouver! So this article should be treated as historic in relation to Uber.
Looking for a ride about town? Where’s the nearest Uber or Lyft? Ride hailing services have seen huge growth in the past few years because they’re convenient and affordable. You’ll find them in many cities around the world, but not Vancouver. For various reasons, Vancouver hasn’t welcomed ride hailing services, such as Uber and Lyft. Local news says their arrival will happen, but until it does, what can we do. Is there an Uber alternative for Vancouver?
This article has been updated since Kater has started operating in Vancouver in summer 2019!
Car Sharing Services
One-way car sharing services are most similar to ride hailing services, which means you can drop a car in a different location to where you pick it up. Vancouver has a couple of one-way car sharing services – Evo and Car2Go. If you’re local, you’ll have seen their cars buzzing around town.
While car sharing services don’t offer a chauffeured transport service, they are easy, convenient, and relatively affordable. You can find a local car through the app in seconds, walk there in seconds or minutes, and be on your way across town very quickly. They charge by the minute ($0.30 – $0.41 per min), though other options are available, and can work out particularly well for your wallet if you’re in a group. No multi-person surcharge!
For most circumstances we’d recommend Evo as they use the Toyota Prius which has lower emissions than the Smart ForTwo used by Car2Go. Plus the cars have ski/bike racks, can all take 5 people, and Evo’s pricing makes getting the best deal simpler. Though Car2Go has a choice of premium vehicles and can be slightly cheaper in some circumstances.
Read more about car sharing services in our complete guide to car sharing in Vancouver, or see a more concise version in our Vancouver car sharing comparison table. As private vehicles that you can book on demand for intra-town trips, they’re a potential Uber alternative for Vancouver, in certain circumstances.
Signing up for the car sharing services is easy. Generally, you need to have a licence, be 18 years old, have 2 years driving experience, and no more than 2 violations or 6 points in last 2 years. You can demonstrate driving history for the past 2 years either with a report from the ICBC (Canada), or something like a report from the DVLA (UK). The process of confirmation is fairly quick (normally a few days), and you don’t need to wait for a fob in the post (you’re not issued with one). Once you’re setup you can book cars instantly on demand, like ride hailing, except you’re the driver! If you want to sign up to car sharing services, check out these links. You can get free sign-up and free minutes, by using the following referral or discount codes.
- Car2Go promo code- ‘JOINC2GVAN_luke@brightaroundthecorner.com’, get to Car2Go here.
- Evo promo code – ‘C000137778’, get to EVO here.
These are referral links and will give me a few $ driving credit too. If you do choose to sign up with these codes, I will massively appreciate it and consider it a token of thanks for authoring these articles.
Taxis are the original ride hailing service, albeit slower to arrive, more unpredictable and generally more expensive. While they’ll surely retain an elitist niche, in the broader landscape of ride hailing services, they do not seem competitive anymore. You may find that taxis provide a higher quality vehicle, perhaps a greater proportion of hybrids, or even electric vehicles. But generally these things do not matter that much, when the baseline is already fairly high for vehicle quality. People care more about cost and convenience, and Taxis are less convenient and more costly than ride hailing.
Kater are a ride-hailing firm that sit somewhere between Uber and taxis. New to Vancouver in spring 2019 and operating more fully by summer 2019, Kater is essentially operating taxis as a ride hailing service. They operate with taxi permits, taxi pricing, and adhere to taxi regulations like requiring additional licensing and training for their drivers, but can be booked through an app that feels like Uber or Lyft. It is argued that this is good for users as the drivers are better trained and more suitably insured, however as the pricing is the same as taxis. With ride-hailing due to arrive in late 2019, we’ll see how successful this half-baked model really is.
Although locals will no doubt have mixed and strong opinions about the buses and trains in town, I think public transport in Vancouver is pretty good. The fares are reasonable, the tickets allow multiple legs in a single trip inside 1.5 hrs, and I haven’t witnessed much overcrowding inside rush hour. Also, some of the network, especially in centre of Vancouver, uses trolley buses which are clean and green. Minor gripes include better options regarding caps on ticket costs for daily use, and no official, dedicated, and accurate app for transport info and realtime timings.
Public transport prices are shown below, and fare zones in the map on the right. You can pay on the bus with the correct exact cash, card, or compass card. The latter gives you the lowest price for a single fare.
|Single (compass card)
Public transport should always be your first choice as an individual, but make sure you use a compass card! Unless you’re in a group, driving an electric vehicle, buses and trains are likely better for the environment, local air quality, and your wallet. Public transport isn’t really an Uber alternative for Vancouver, as it can’t compete with the convenience and comfort of ride hailing, but it’s cheap and predictable (mostly, if there’s no snow).
Unregulated Ride Hailing
There are reportedly plenty of Chinese language ride hailing services operating in parts of Greater Vancouver. As they’re unofficial, they don’t follow the same rules as regulated taxis. Uber background checks its drivers, unofficial rides are unlikely to. Accepting a ride in an unregulated ride hailing vehicle means it’s not licensed to legally operate in BC. The driver is running the risk of a substantial fine. And you’ll be a bit less sure of whether the person behind the wheel is suitably qualified. Although these services may seem like an Uber alternative for Vancouver, for most people these aren’t going to be accessible or suitable.
An uber alternative for Vancouver – the conclusion
No single service can reliably provide the ease, convenience, and affordability of ride hailing services of Uber and Lyft, as found in many other cities. There is no perfect uber alternative for Vancouver! But, there are a host of other options that go some way to meeting the need for on-demand urban transportation. We’d recommend considering public transport first, then car sharing services, and regulated taxis.