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Your Toronto 2014 Issue Navigator

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Picking on PickupPal

2008_08_21pickuppal.jpg
So, your buddy just flew in from his exotic, six-month trek throughout Thailand. You’re at work when he lands, so you send your older sister to go pick him up (she owes you a favour, as per usual). She drives to the airport, picks him up, and he returns, full of coconut curry and stories of full-moon parties. He doesn’t bring back any drugs, or snakeskin shoes, but on the ride back he buys your sister a coffee to say thanks. He’s definitely just done something illegal. Can you spot the crime? We sure don’t. And neither does PickupPal.
PickupPal is a carpooling system run around the world, where the passenger submits a route request online, and is set up with a willing driver who plans on heading the same way. Through the website, the driver chooses a passenger from a list of candidates, they make a deal, and the passenger is given a ticket to ride―one which confirms the price and the destination. The service is entirely free aside from the fee paid to the driver. It’s not only economically-friendly, it’s also entirely environmentally-friendly. For a province that has created High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes (lanes which “encourage carpooling and transit use by providing a faster, more reliable alternative to driving a car alone“), invests hundreds of millions in going green, and set ambitious goals for getting rid of greenhouse gases, it would seem that carpooling would be setting its carbon footprint in the right direction. But according to the Ontario Highway Transportation Board, it’s absolutely criminal (as we’ve mentioned before).
In May, Trentway-Wagar, a bus company that enjoys the use of less-crowded HOVs, called out PickupPal for their violation of the Public Vehicles Act. The PVA states:

No person shall arrange or offer to arrange transportation of passengers by means of a public vehicle operated by another person unless that other person is the holder of an operating licence authorizing that other person to perform the transportation.

With its obvious violation of an outdated law, PickupPal is set to appear before the board on October 15th, in a situation that has closed down similar ridesharing programs in Ontario (see: Allostop, Ecoride). While other provinces can enjoy cheaper rides and less pollution, Ontario is the only place in the world to potentially deny PickupPal of their ridesharing privileges. If the law is still in place by the time of the trial, PickupPal won’t be taking on passengers anytime soon. But Canada’s former Environment Minister is backing a new petition to amend the act and protect PickupPal from a polluted, smoggy fate. You can read her plea and sign the petition online if you please. If you’re not convinced yet, maybe you will be the next time you need a ride home from the hospital… because according to the current law, having that ride home arranged for you is just downright illegal.
Photo by H4NUM4N. Thanks to Kevin McLaughlin of Autoshare for the tip.

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