PickupPal, which describes itself as “the largest online carpooling community in the world”, is a site that allows people all over the world to arrange to rideshare or carpool. It’s used by people travelling to the same place to arrange carpools to work, rides out of town and even share a ride to see their favourite bands in concert. It’s a great way for people to save money, gas and the environment.
The only people who seem to have a problem with PickupPal are the bus companies in Ontario. PickupPal lets people seeking rides pay the people driving them, and the bus companies in the province sensed a threat to their business model. The bus companies decided to go to the Ontario Highway Transit Board, which found PickupPal in violation of the Public Vehicles Act.
The problem with the Act is that it makes a lot of ridesharing illegal. The only way you can carpool with someone is if you meet all the criteria listed below:
- Travel can only be between home and work. Carpooling to school, the ski hill, a concert or the airport are not allowed.
- You cannot cross municipal boundaries. If my co-worker David and I, who live in Toronto, were to commute to the Microsoft office, which is in Mississauga, we’d be in violation of the Act.
- You must ride with the same driver each day. If I were to ride to Microsoft with David on Tuesdays and Thursdays and with Developer and VP Mark Relph (my boss’ boss) on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, we’d be in violation of the act.
- You can’t pay the driver more frequently than once a week. If I give David gas money on Tuesday and then again on Thursday, I’ve just broken the law.
This isn’t the first time the bus companies have messed with a ridesharing service. The popular Quebec-based service Allo Stop, which was a service that allowed people to find rides between Toronto and Montreal – a very popular travel corridor – was banned in Ontario after the Ontario Highway Transit Board ruled that their service was illegal. The Board did this at the behest of the bus companies Greyhound, Voyageur and Trentway-Wagar. The “logic” of the decision, according to Felix D’Mello of the Ontario Highway Transport Board, who said "If you are transporting passengers beyond a municipal boundary, and getting compensation for it, the only way you can provide that kind of service is with a public transportation license."
Why should I be forbidden to carpool simply because I want to pay the driver for gas (or, the more likely scenario: because I want to be compensated for gas)? The bus companies are simply using a law whose intent was to protect the public as a cudgel with which to beat perceived competition out of existence.
What can be done? A BlogTO reader wrote his MPP, who responded quickly by suggesting that we exert pressure on the Honourable Jim Bradley, Ontario’s Minister of Transportation. Write him and express your concerns! He can be reached via old-school mail at:
The Honourable James J. Bradley
Ontario Minister of Transportation
77 Wellesley St W, 3rd Flr, Ferguson Block
Toronto ON M7A 1Z8
or via email at email@example.com