Uber arrives in Vancouver, last major city in North America

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Uber launches operations in Vancouver.
Image: Cody DeBos / The Burn-In

Uber has just accomplished something pretty remarkable. On Friday, the rideshare service made its offerings available to residents and tourists of Vancouver, British Columbia. For Uber, Vancouver marks the last major city in North America that it didn’t have a presence in. By conquering that milestone, it has cemented itself as one of the world’s most influential startups.

Until recently, the province has held out against the service in favor of more traditional transportation options. However, that sentiment changed and Uber was quick to take advantage. Its rival Lyft also launched operations in the city on Friday.

Uber At Last

It’s almost unheard of to be in a well-populated area and not have the ability to hail an Uber ride within a few minutes. Although rural towns don’t have the same luxury, they were never the company’s market. After all, Uber thrives on high-demand and quick turnover. Offering rides in small towns doesn’t fit that mold.

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Since its inception, the rideshare pioneer has focused its efforts on creating a presence in the biggest cities in the world. Although it is currently having some difficulties in Europe, it’s clear that the company is clearly in control of North America.

Vancouver did put up an intense fight, however. It even went so far as to use undercover agents to ensure that companies like Uber and Lyft weren’t trying to get around its bans. Yes, for real.

On Thursday, the province’s Passenger Transportation Board cleared both rideshare services for operation in the Lower Mainland and the ski town of Whistler. As of now, the companies can only pick up passengers in Vancouver but can drop them off in that wider area. Notably, both Uber and Lyft wasted no time in taking advantage of the new clearance. They each launched their respective services in the city on the next day.

Under Pressure

The decision for Vancouver to suddenly change its stance on ridesharing may seem a bit odd. While there is no clear indication of what exactly caused the reversal, one leading theory is the forthcoming closure of Car2Go.

Vancouver as a city has widely embraced the idea of mass transit. However, car-sharing (not ride-sharing) has also been a huge factor. Car2Go lets individuals rent a car by the hour when they need it. The service operates similarly to scooter rental startups like Bird and Lime, but with cars.

However, Car2Go will soon be shutting down its North American operations. This will leave behind a large gap in Vancouver’s transportation industry that Uber and Lyft hope to address. It may take some time for people to adjust to the “new” services, but they will catch on in time. It’ll be no different than it has been in every other major city.

Whether people need a ride home from a Canucks game, a drop-off at the ski lodge, or simply brought home after a night out, ridesharing will eventually become the new norm. For Uber, finally entering Vancouver is a huge milestone. It will now need to continue innovating and adding to its offerings to keep people hooked.

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