Bus operator tries to shut down online car-share service

Why is Ontario the only place this happens?

You may recall back in April I wrote about an Internet company, founded by two Ontario entrepreneurs, that makes it easier for people to share a ride to events, like sports games or concerts. The service, called PickupPal, is kind of like an Internet dating service for drivers and riders. They go online, get matched up depending on where they’re going and when they need to go, then the driver and rider are left to negotiate their own arrangement. PickupPal has about 100,000 registered members after only eight months in operation, attracting users from around the world — mostly Canada, the U.S. and Australia. Ontario represents about 10 per cent of its members.

Good idea, right? Help people share a ride, get some cars of the road, reduce congestion and make the air easier to breath. Well, seems one of Canada’s largest chartered bus companies doesn’t agree. It has applied to Ontario’s transport board and is asking to have PickupPal shut out of Ontario. Their argument, to be fair, isn’t that unreasonable: they say there’s nothing stopping a van shuttle service from using PickupPal to arrange vanloads of people travelling popular routes. These vans are not properly insured and don’t meet the same strict safety standards as the bus companies. Oh, and they also cut into the bus company’s business.

But really, there’s got to be a compromise here. Under Ontario law, it’s technically illegal for a person to offer a drive somewhere to a couple of buddies and charge for gas. This just doesn’t make sense. Fortunately, the Ontario government, as a result of this story being publicized, says it is now reviewing the province’s Public Vehicle Act and hopes to make amendments that make both sides happy.

Better move fast, for PickupPal’s sake.