Bus Company Tries To Shut Down Online Carpooling Service

from the why,-that's-illegal! dept

Carpooling is exactly the sort of thing that is perfect for a web app — to match up potential drivers and riders — but apparently it makes bus companies upset. A Canadian bus company has actually gone so far to try to shut down an online carpool matching service, claiming that it’s illegal. The bus company actually had someone go and test out the carpool service, and has now asked the local transportation board in Ottawa to shut down the service. Their argument is that these carpools are unregulated, and the drivers are not licensed and don’t have to follow the same regulations that bus and taxi services do. Perhaps that’s a reason to re-examine the regulations rather than shutting down the carpooling service, though.

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Comments on “Bus Company Tries To Shut Down Online Carpooling Service”

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51 Comments
Another Random Person (profile) says:

Re: It's hitchhiking

Hitch hiking? How is this hitch hiking? You know you’re you’re riding with and you’re all going to the same relative location. With hitch-hiking you’re basically getting in a random car with a COMPLETE stranger. The people taking part in this service are environmentalists, and if you’ve done a lil bit of research and visited the site that they’re attempting to discontinue you’ll find out that pictures are posted of the individuals, as well as the location they’re going.
It’s just an advanced version of carpooling… No thumbs needed.

cak says:

Re: Re: It's hitchhiking

You are riding with an almost COMPLETE stranger? How do you know this person, from a website where they could have put false information about their name? Or are we best of friends now?

It is not even carpooling, it is a taxi service, without regulations. There is no difference, and no doubt there are people using this service for a job, driving people back and forth.

Avatar28 says:

Re: Re: Re: It's hitchhiking

If there are people misusing the service and basically running an unlicensed taxi service with it then they government should go after THEM for breaking the law, not the content provider. It really is no different than going after, say, You Tube because someone posted the latest episode of American Idol up there or something rather than going after the person who did the posting.

Sierra Night Tide says:

Re: It's hitchhiking

Work for a bus company?

Have you ever been on a overly crowded public bus? Think events, holidays, festivals, concerts and sport games. I have in Seattle, San Francisco & Los Angeles and it IS NOT pleasant. Body crushing against each other, some creepy person trying to touch you, gang or wannabe gang members threatening others and starting fights, stolen wallets ect…

Car pools AND public buses are the sane way to reduce highway traffic and pollution.

John Wilson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: It's hitchhiking

Hitchhiking is only illegal here in British Columbia where it’s signed to be, such as Highway 1 from Vancouver to Abbotsford and Highway 99 from the US border Vancouver.

If it is illegal elsewhere it certainly isn’t enforced, if any look at the Island Highway is an indication.

Where hitchhiking is illegal in BC is the same as any other activity on the highway that impedes the flow of traffic.

ttfn

John

C.A says:

Re: It's hitchhiking

It’s not even close to hitchhiking, ever heard of a ride-board? but then again, you probably never went to college if you make claims like that. before the internet, student unions across the nation kept them up to help students get to and from home and school. this simply uses the internet to help people cut back on gas, and potentially cut back on vital land for event parking.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Exactly!

Ride-sharing orgs are a natural extension of student ride-boards. For the past 20-odd years, I have been using the services of Allo-Stop to travel between Montreal and Quebec city, as well as between Montreal and Sherbrooke, and it provides a reasonable alternative to taking commercial buses for around half the price.

Note that I am not a student, and was already well past my student years when I discovered Allo-Stop, but I did travel in the company of many students on such trips, and in some cases the drivers themselves were students, and one was a recently graduated (i.e. former) student. They all say that the advantages to them are varied, from lowering their gas/toll expenses to making their long-distance trips less boring through the assorted company and conversation they get from participating passengers. As for the passengers, they get the savings, obviously, but they also do get to meet interesting new people, and sometimes they even benefit from non-standard departure/arrival times as well as numerous pick-up points, plus some possibility of negotiating custom drop-off points.

BTW, the Star article does mention that the Ontario provincial government already yielded to similar pressures to force the shutdown of Allo-Stop’s provincial offices a few years ago. They used to have a few Ontario locations as part of their routes, but now they are limited to the Quebec province.

There is little doubt in my mind that this legal challenge has a good chance of succeeding (AGAIN), although I am pleased to read that PickupPal intends to fight this out. Owing to their small size, Allo-Stop probably could not afford to mount a legal defense, and so just gave up the Ontario market at the time (2000). The difference in government may or may not help as well, but on that we will just have to see…

Good luck PickupPal!

kingthorin says:

Re: It's hitchhiking

It IS NOT hitchhiking.

With this service you have a chance to talk to the person prior to offering/accepting a ride.

Also what gave you the idea that hitchhiking is illegal? In Ontario it is only illegal to hitchhike on series 400 highways. For further information refer to:

Linkage:
http://www.thumbsoutcanada.com/framesite/extras.html
http://www.digihitch.com/article1448.html

Law:
http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_90h08_e.htm#s177s1
for definitions related to the above Canadian Law(s) (including “roadway”) see:
http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_90h08_e.htm#s1s1

Ron (profile) says:

Regulations

I can see the argument here. Carpooling, as a casual activity, is really just people giving rides to other people. The carpool site changes that to be an organized group providing transportation services at a lower rate (maybe the cost of a tank of gas or something). But, it is an organized group that is unregulated. We have other organized groups that are things like buses, and taxis, and jitney’s and the like who are all regulated, taxed, licensed, etc. Now, buses and taxis and the like are heavily taxed and regulated; probably for the purpose of extracting money from a captive group. So, the bus company may feel it’s only fair that the organized car pool groups have the same oversight. As to the point of whether the regulations, etc. are appropriate … well, beats me. But, no matter who is providing the transportation service, I would want to be assured that the person driving the vehicle is able to safely operate it and that the vehicle is also in good repair. If that is a lower bar then, I’m cool with that.

Sierra Night Tide says:

Re: it can be abused

Interesting argument and I do some very valid points. However… If we were to outlaw this sort of activity it could be abused in several other areas… such as

People trying to find a ride to anther state
People trying to find a ride to the airport
Giving away free / unwanted personal items (think Craig’s List)

Even free social networking sites could fall under a similar unscrupulous ‘law’ just so that greedy companies can make or think they can make more money. I think the ‘law’ would do nothing more than increase road traffic, increase road rage and decrease the use of some services because people cannot afford to pay a fee. In addition, there are many jobs that are not accessible by public transportation and the lack of employees to fill the position would hurt businesses and the businesses servicing employees near they’re work.

Mark K says:

Re: Regulations

This argument seems to be the most valid to me.

If bus companies and taxis, organized transportation providers, are required to to show proof that their drivers are capable, and their vehicles are well maintained, then I can see requiring the same thing for this organization.

However, it seems like it would make more sense for the bus company to fight the heavy taxes and other regulations that they are subjected to, to get rid of them, rather than try to impose them on others.

Just my $0.02 CAN.

Fushta says:

Re: Blaming the Platform Again?

oops, hit enter too soon

PickupPal gets none of the money from the carpool transaction (they used to, but not anymore). People are still going to pick up rides to events or cross-country. Think of the old bulletin board at college with offers to share gas money. No difference, just streamlined and efficient.

These guys are doing a good thing and aren’t in the wrong. They don’t force the carpoolers to charge anything, so how can they be responsible?

Anonymous Coward says:

Bus isn't so bad, if it's adding value, and not a monopoly

Best idea is an all-encompassing multi-modal transportation strategy.

How do you get transit to compete with transportation?
When the government focus is primarily on transit-oriented solutions, the quality of Transit tends to suffer, but a strategy that encourages carpooling and bus as equals alongside “plain vanilla” transportation has greater potential to lift the quality of both bus and carpooling options.

When competition and more options exist will transit options look to differentiation.

Anonymous Coward says:

My Company participates in a local carpooling/altetrnative method for getting to work program. There are incintives for taking the bus, train, walking, carpooling, or biking. The program is managed via this website: http://www.trafficsolutions.info/cc-default.htm

Claiming somthing like this is illeagle is daft. At least my program encourages taking the bus. So, I dont foresee any retarded lawsuits in my area.

Gracey says:

Hitchhiking is illegal in Canada on the highways.
http://www.ontarioaccommodation.com/travelsafe.htm

Most cities and towns provide carpool parking near the on/off ramps to the major highways, and most cities and towns in Ontario not only endorse carpooling, but recommend it. Money may not always change hands, but regular carpoolers take turns – sometimes by the week providing the gas, car and driving service so it equals out in the wash.

It makes no sense at all that Ottawa would try to shut down a service that most other towns encourage, even if it is an online service.

John Wilson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Hate to tell you this, Gracey, but Ontario is NOT Canada. It’s a province that only thinks it’s the entire country.

Even in Ontario the regulation against hitchhiking applies to the 400s and QEW where it doesn’t apply to, say, the Trans-Canada as it winds its way over the top of the lakes from, say, Thunder Bay to Sudbury.

Each Province regulates hitching a ride differently.

ttfn

John

Hans says:

Here in California, hitchhiking is legal as long as you’re not standing in the road.
“California Vehicle Code section 21957. No person shall stand in a roadway for the purpose of soliciting a ride from the driver of any vehicle.” It’s fine as long as you’re on the sidewalk or off the pavement. You also can’t hitchhike on the freeway, but that’s only because pedestrians aren’t allowed at all on the freeways.

Enrico Suarve says:

Re: Re: Re:

Reading the article it looks to me like they’re really just asking that they follow the rules (licensing, insurance, etc.). They don’t have to shut down if they follow the rules.

The bus company no doubt expect that forcing small sites and individuals to follow the rules, licensing and insurance requirements put in place for businesses will amount to the same thing (shutting them down)

What’s various peoples take on me sharing fuel costs with friends? As that’s the logical conclusion of where you’re going with this one. If a friend and I decide to drive 200miles to the same location and split the costs should I have to obtain special insurance and a license? I’d say that would be pretty insane

At what point is somebody classed as a friend? Can I make friends with someone online on a free website devoted to a common interest (say driving to Winnipeg) and then agree to split the costs?

The idea of a ride sharing website is a great idea and like ‘Me’ above says – If your bus service is so crappy that a car pooling website is serious competition, then the problem isn’t the website… it’s your bus ‘service’ (or lack of it)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The bus company no doubt expect that forcing small sites and individuals to follow the rules, licensing and insurance requirements put in place for businesses will amount to the same thing (shutting them down)

When you start doing something for money, as in this case, that’s exactly what you are: a business.

Enrico Suarve says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

When you start doing something for money, as in this case, that’s exactly what you are: a business.

Where does it say people are doing this for the money? It seems people are doing this to cut their own costs – not the same thing

Seems a lot of people are ASSUMING people are abusing the service and using it to start up unofficial taxi services – wheres the evidence? If someone starts to abuse the service and does this, then (and only then) they are breaking the law

Not everything in this world needs regulating – if you come to my house and I give you a beer in return for something else should I be a licensed premises?

Face it – some of us are adults and capable of making decisions for ourselves – people using this service know that what they are getting is not a licensed, vetted taxi service and are OK with that. Why should they be forced to use expensive overcrowed services just because some others are only happy if everything in their lives is regulated and guaranteed? Why is it that just because they are not terrified of meeting people and of everything that could go wrong that they ae supposedly the ones with the problem?

Me says:

There is quite a difference between finding someone online and a taxi service that must be taken into account before they start to compare. First with a taxi or other type of transportation service you the passenger have guarantees that the vehicle is in decent repair, the person behind the wheel is sober and has a good knowledge of traffic laws. These online transportation services don’t really offer you anything. Whats to say the guy you get a ride from has a clunker that dies out on you the whole way to your destination. Maybe the tire needs to be changed and your the one that gets to change it, maybe the person driving doesn’t shut up the whole way.

The funny thing is that this company is whining and really devaluing their service, if they really think their service will be eclipsed by car pooling with a complete stranger then maybe they really don’t have that much to offer to begin with.

Burning Man (user link) says:

Clue Pooling

If an unregulated, unlicensed taxi cab company solicits for business online, that’s probably BAD, umkay. But there is no law against meeting others at work, at a bar, or on Craig’s List to arrange shared rides for commuting or special events. A social networking website with a particular goal of putting people together to share rides (or love) is neither illegal nor bad.

The bus company is not necessarily espousing Republican or Democratic philosophy, but is surely not Libertarian or Green. What’s next, Ford bitching that the Mini Cooper unfairly competes with the Excursion, and that in a crash between the two, the Excursion is safer… Give me a break.

Dave says:

It's not the first time.

about 6 years ago, a company/website called AlloStop was doing the same thing. They were doing the carpool exchange.

They were shut down as they were an unlicensed transportation company. Even though they didn’t provide the rides, they were the booking agent. That’s what caught them up. Providing the rides is one thing, they made money doing the bookings.

The new site just puts ads up so they’re not getting the same treatment. The busses are running scared as it would take their key market away, people going to less popular locations. Just think, the “milk run” routes that visit the small towns (and the big cities) will lose ridership to people paying $30 for gas instead of $100 for a bus ticket.

Since airfare between major cities is comparable to bus tickets, the bus companies will lose their only real source of revenue.

And for those that think that ride sharing can be dangerous, so can getting beheaded on a bus.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) says:

No regulation

In farmland parts of California migrant workers would pay individuals with large, windowless vans with the seats gutted out to drive them from the city out to their current farm of employment. There were no seatbelts and they would cram 20 people into some of the larger ones. After a few accidents involving these vans and having 12-15 people die in a single accident the State decided to enforce some rules like seats/seatbelts and mass transport licenses (of course, seatbelts were already law). It makes sense to have a regulated service. I could see where there is no money changing hands where would you draw the line…?

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