Online Carpooling Service Fined For Unregulated Transportation

from the how-dare-you-ride-with-someone-else dept

One of the great things about the web, obviously, is that it allows for much more efficient communication that opens up new and useful offerings. For example: the web offers the ability to find other people traveling to the same general place you’re heading and to set up a convenient carpool. It’s good for the environment. It’s good for traffic. It just makes a lot of sense. Unless, of course, you’re a bus company and you’re so afraid that people will use such a system rather than paying to take the bus. That’s what happened up in Ontario, as earlier this year we wrote about a bus company that was trying to shut down PickupPal, an online carpooling service, for being an unregulated transportation company. TechCrunch points us to the news that the Ontario transportation board has sided with the bus company and fined PickupPal. It’s also established a bunch of draconian rules that any user in Ontario must follow if it uses the service — including no crossing of municipal boundaries — meaning the service is only good within any particular city’s limits.

It’s better than being shut down completely, and the service can still operate elsewhere around the world, but this is yet another case where we see regulations, that are supposedly put in place to improve things for consumers, do the exact opposite. Just like we’ve seen elsewhere, you get regulatory capture, where an established industry uses the regulations not for their intended purpose, but to actually drastically limit the competition.

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Companies: pickuppal

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Comments on “Online Carpooling Service Fined For Unregulated Transportation”

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anon says:

i love it…. instead of making their services better and more appealing to customers they have lost, they played the role of “tattle-tale” and shut down the competition. its how America works- don’t get better, just use the law on your enemies.

though in all honesty, pickupPal should have checked with the transportation laws first and have already had a loophole ready for such a situation.

Canadian says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Regarding the post Nov 14th, 2008 @9:25 am

How does having lived in Europe give you experience to know that Canadians have the american attitude?

Shouldn’t you have lived in both Canada and “america” to come to such a conclusion? Or does living in Europe give a person such a solid grasp of all human behaviour that they can make claims about the people in all other countries on the planet?

Having lived in Canada for several years, I can say that you’re a moron.

KB says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

America isn’t a continent you utter twat. North American is one continent, South America is another. They’re not two parts of the same continent. I realise that the North and South parts may be confusing your minuscule brain. Before you start spouting crap, trying to sound smarter than you are, get your facts straight first.

When someone says America, they mean the USA. That’s a de facto standard that everyone else in the world uses, other obstreperous little wankers like you who think they’re being smart when in fact they’re just showing their ignorance.

I’m guessing that you’re American (or following your logic, United States of American) and you disparage the great white North (also not a continent). Go back to having sex with your sister, electing shaved monkeys into your highest office and leave the debating to people with more brain cells genital warts.

Good day sir! I SAID GOOD DAY!

Fuchsia says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Well, (and I am exercising utmost restraint here and ignoring the rest of what is an unacceptable post), whether America is a continent or not depends on where you come from. In Europe, students are generally taught that there are six continents in the world: Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania, Antarctica and… America. I was very surprised the first time I heard North and South America referred to as separate continents. (It would seem to me after all that you can only have a north and south of one, single place…)

chris (profile) says:

Re: Re:

its how America works- don’t get better, just use the law on your enemies.

ontario is in canada.

though in all honesty, pickupPal should have checked with the transportation laws first and have already had a loophole ready for such a situation.

so every website has to check all of the laws in every country in the world before going live? that sounds fairly prohibitive.

perhaps what website operators should do is incorporate through a series of shell corporations and tax havens so they cannot be sued or shut down.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

actually, if you want to be condescending, you should do it right. There happens to be an Ontario, California.

So, before you go and say things like “Ontario is in Canada” you should make sure there aren’t any Ontario’s in America.

Besides that, the comment above yours was more directly clever, and didn’t need to be repeated.

On checking laws…. Being forced to read all the possible laws, is not prohibitive – It’s impossible.

On opening incorporating through shell corporations and tax havens – Now you are just being silly.

Chris says:

Re: Re: Re: Ontario California

Sure, there’s a city (town? village? No idea how big it is…) called Ontario in California. But since when does a city have it’s own transportation board that has authority to regulate things like this?

Transportation is inevitably run at the state/provincial or federal level in every country that I know of.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“ontario is in canada.”

Which is basically US Jr.

Joking aside, this is really sad and considering the drivers aren’t payed by the PickupPal I don’t see how it can constitute as an unregulated transportation service. Someone could set up a free forum with the same purpose. The only reason its an “issue” is because its a company organizing it instead of a community.

So much for innovation.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is the stupidest abuse of power I have seen in a while. I am not sure how the Canadian system works but in America municipal bus services typcially recieve federal funding as an incentive to decrease traffic. Canada’s federal government should stop all funding for Ontario.

perhaps what website operators should do is incorporate through a series of shell corporations and tax havens so they cannot be sued or shut down.

You mean like online gambling sites? Nah, it wont work, Kentucky will just seize the domain names.

NSMike says:

Ridiculous classification

I still don’t see how this bus company got the courts to see this service as a transportation service. It provides no transportation. It doesn’t own any vehicles. It simply provides a means for folks to communicate, connect, and organize. It should be common sense that this is “use at your own risk, no guarantees.”

Cybertelecom (user link) says:

Montgomery Bus Boycott

Chilling. When Martin Luther King ran the Montgomery Bus Boycott, part of the logistics was how to get all the boycotters to work. MLK and the civil rights movement basically organized and ran a massive car pooling operation. The boycott went on for a long time and things were getting bad. If I remember correctly – on the last day, two things happened – the local court ruled that MLK and the civil rights movement was illegally operating a transportation company without a license – and the federal courts overturned segregation on the bus services – handing MLK his victory.

Live in Ontario, had no clue! (user link) says:

Re: Montgomery Bus Boycott

Eric, maybe you could use this in your appeal! (probably not relevent here lol).

Truly shocking, I couldn’t believe it when I read about it. I suppose there is some justification for having guidelines as to what constitutes public transportation, but man! Talk about unintended consequences to a poorly written law.

Good luck Eric

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Proposterous

Ashok, learn to spell please… ‘Proposterous’ my foot! 🙂

Dilbert, learn to copy-paste proper nouns if you can’t reproduce ’em properly. Also, just because the public transportation in Ashok’s country may not be up to the mark (I’m not saying it is, or isn’t), doesn’t mean he cannot comment on the story, eh? Common sense dictates that anyone in the world with a modicum of sense in their noggin would see that there was an obvious injustice done in this case, so what’s with your smart-ass comment re. his country, eh?

Stop being so narrow-minded and regionally chauvinistic.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Asok

No, I understood the reference just fine. What I didn’t appreciate was the ignorant insinuation in there about the state of As(h)ok’s country’s transportation, and also just how that was relevant to the article at hand. The crack was directed at the poster because his name was similar to a Dilbert character, which makes it more of an ad hominem attack.

Care to comment, or would you enjoy people making fun of your name with irrelevant statements?

fprintf says:

In Connecticut, USA

I take the bus to work, and have been since taking a job in the capital city. The funny thing is, our department of transportation encourages carpooling and has links to the NuRide method of finding carpooling buddies.

Interestingly, I looked into NuRide for my commute, 25 miles each way, and it was much more economical to take the bus at the State subsidized rate than it was to drive my car two – three days per week at $4 per gallon. I haven’t done the breakeven at $2.40 per gallon, the current local price of super unleaded, but I still suspect that once I add back in parking, maintenance & depreciation the bus is still cheaper and almost as convenient.

fprintf says:


I think you will find that it is the rest of the world that calls the United States of America == “America”. I am originally from England, and everyone over there used to call it either “The States” or “America”. On the continent, most people I run into call it that as well. It doesn’t help those of us who live in the U.S. that many of our songs and slogans call us America…. God Bless America anyone? They weren’t referring to the Canucks and Mexican’s when they wrote that song, for sure.

am says:

Re: "America"

“I think you will find that it is the rest of the world that calls the United States of America == “America”. I am originally from England, “

You are amazingly wrong.. Western Europe is hardly “the rest of the world”. You will find that in South America when people say “America” they generally refer to the entire continent.

Anonymous Coward says:

The USA has no sole possession of the word “America”.

True but we are the only country with America in our name. And when people refer to the general Americas it’s always North, Central, or South America. Also, people who live in the States aren’t called United Statesians, they’re called Americans. Unlike other denizens of the Americas who refer to themselves as Canadians or Mexicans or Bolivians. So referring to the US as America both makes sense and is common practice.

bran is good says:

so…. if i go to craigslist and then start looking for people to carpool with there… wouldnt that also violate the same laws?
wouldnt that include any sites that could organize a group of people looking to carpool such as yahoo groups, facebook myspace and the like?

Is canada really ready to shut down any website that people use to find a ride?

A. Krone (user link) says:

Not convinced

Wow, there sure are a lot people arguing geography, pretty sad.

Anyway, to be fair, pickuppal is making money from its advertisements and their agreement does get into the details of how fees are handled between parties. I think this makes it more of a service and less of a “communication platform” despite their claims.

I could see how a court could fear for the safety of a person using the service. It’s a perfect platform for a predator.

Here’s the boring agreement:

Canadian Bacon says:

More to this story

While I agree the bus companies are using the legeslation to cut out the competition, there is some (only some) merit to their argument.

I was a regular user of a similar service (mentioned above) run out of Quebec called Allo Stop. Pre-internet days you could get a cheap ride anywhere they had established service at about a quarter of the cost of the bus or less. Also great for drivers who wanted help with gas – all very professionally run.

Towards the end of the run, however, there were some drivers who were abusing the system. A couple of trips I took, a driver would show up with an ancient passenger van (no seatbelts) and load it to the rafters with people.

A van such as this (I believe working for a competing service) crashed on the 401 (i.e., main highway) between Toronto and Montreal, litterally spilling it’s contents on the road and killing several passengers.

Sure, you could argue the people could have seen the van was a safety hazard and refused to get on, but when you’re broke, or made plans and have to get somewhere fast and on the cheap, you roll the dice – I did.

The bus companies had been grumbling about these services for a while, but this accident gave them the ammunition to make the powers that be pay attention. That same accident was probably also a factor in this latest decision.

Chris says:

Re: More to this story

Sure, but if you ride the bus, some psycho takes a knife, stabs you, and cuts your head off. (Google for this. It happened in western Canada recently.)

Obviously the buses are unsafe, and we should all be carpooling.

There’s no merit to the bus company’s stance at all. Knee-jerk reactionary bullshit is what it is.

DaveW says:

What the OHTB really said

If you look at the Board’s judgement , you see that they say that PickupPal can still run the carpool operation, but they twist the legislation to define the cars used as PUBLIC vehicles under the act because they MIGHT possibly use larger vehicles to take people to a concert or game. And then they fined them $11,000. The Ontario government is going to amend the carpool definition, but this bad ruling should be appealed.


tiker says:

This is BS

.. this is BS!

As said above, this is not a transportation service, it’s a means for people to group up and travel together.

Buses are crap.. you have to go when the bus goes and if they’re late they never tell you.

For anyone that spens 2.5 hours per day sitting on the 401 in the GTA knows that we need less cars on the road and more car pools. Isn’t that part of the reason they put in the car pool lanes on the 403 and 404?

Craig says:


This ruling is quite insane. The Ontario Transportation Board is ruling outside of its jurisdiction into people’s private lives and this ruling should be overturned by a non-kangaroo court (and the Board should promptly sued for fraud).

All that the web site should have to do is adequately inform the public that they are making transportation arrangements at their own risk with private individuals and that the transportation is not covered by provincial transit regulations. This is like the CRTC telling me that I can’t manufacture T-shirts.

Rikard says:

Almost as stupid

That’s almost as stupid as the European directive IPRED1, which serves for the content and media industries as a means for eliminating the competition (piracy and file sharing services).

Rather than changing the business models to comply with the technology and habits of today, the industries of yesterday use the law to preserve their current modus operandi at the expense of ordinary citizens.

Dmitry says:

This is BS!

Subj is about “t’s also established a bunch of draconian rules that any user in Ontario must follow if it uses the service — including no crossing of municipal boundaries — meaning the service is only good within any particular city’s limits. ” 😉

Currently PVA states:

“car pool vehicle” means a motor vehicle as defined in the Highway Traffic Act,
(a) with a seating capacity of not more than twelve persons,
(b) while it is operated transporting no more than twelve commuters including the driver, none of whom pay for the transportation more frequently than on a weekly basis,
(c) that is not used by any one driver to transport commuters for more than one round trip per day, and
(d) the owner, or if the vehicle is subject to a lease, the lessee, of which does not own or lease another car pool vehicle unless the owner or lessee is the employer of a majority of the commuters transported in the vehicles,

THIS IS THE LAW! The rest is BS those winers came up with 😛

Eric Dewhirst (user link) says:

Re: This is BS!

You have to look at previous ruling of the OHTB to get the clauses stated above – ( look on page 2 and throughout the Allo Stop decision).

One of our members went from Toronto to Montreal and picked up an under cover private investigator hired by the bus company. The total cost of the trip to go door to door – $60 – total distance over 300 miles. Was he running an illegal bus? – nope he was in a Chevy blazer with his 11 year old daughter sitting in the back seat. They were on a trip to the east coast to visit family. What did our member do wrong? He crossed municipal boundaries and charged a fee. The amount of the fee is in consequential because the board has ruled in the past even compensation as little as buying a coffee would be deemed illegal.

If you want more info – send me an email –

Cheers – Eric

adina says:

unfortunately... this is not new.

early 2000 there was a company called AlloStop (they might actually still exist but operate very differently) … they also got shut down by greyhound (ie. through a court ruling). Which is all evidence that the giant sloth corp is NOT doing their job.. people are not happy and are looking for alternatives! wake up greyhound!
ps. if anyone is really looking for carpooling boards, check out craigslist & kijiji… they’re free. and nothing can stop these online boards!

Golodh says:

This is really stupid ...

The fun part is: an analogous lawsuit was brought in France in 2005 (see ) … and it failed. Can you imagine? One of the most regulated and legislated countries in the world and they saw off this piece of nonsense.

Now Canada shows the world how it’s done. Nevermind fairness or commonsense: just hire a lawyer and try to get the stupidest charges to stick. Who knows … you may find a clueless transportation board and you’re in the money.

mxtb says:


My initial reaction is the big guy is stomping on the little guy once again.
However the court made a ruling based on the evidence presented and the law. The ruling can be appealed.
Now suppose this never came to litigation. Suppose an accident occurred and a passenger wanted to bring an action against PickupPal. Now PickupPal becomes the big guy and the passenger becomes the little guy. Who will you support then?
Regulations are put in place after all concerned parties have stated their cases. These regulations can be adjusted and amended as new information arises. This is the nature of our legal system.
So, while it is important to have a healthy economy through enterprise and a healthy environment through sharing resources, we have to abide by the regulations that we, ourselves, have accepted. Ignorantia juris non excusat can have many implications.
If the rules are felt to be wrong, they must be changed. And changed through action. (user link) says:

Newcomer to the social travel scene, aims to make a difference, specifically an environmental one. This site is concerned with your carbon footprint, which as you probably know by now is greatly augmented when you travel in your gas guzzling car. One way to curb your carbon emissions is to car pool or to bring some people along with you on your next roadtrip. RoadSharing connects people who need a ride with those who?ve got a ride; thus people can get to where they need to be and make new friends on the way. The site is divided into two basic options: Search a route and Share a route. The latter is for those looking to drive people to a certain destination, while the former, is for those looking for a lift. The site is available in several languages including English, French, Italian, German and Spanish. Sign up is free.

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