Pickup Pal Banned In Ontario

pickup-pal image

Pickup Pal operates in 104 countries, "facilitating ridesharing for hundreds of thousands of people." Its objectives "are to reduce carbon emissions, combat road traffic congestion, fight high gas prices and enable people to connect and improve the environment."

But not in Ontario, Canada; Trentway Wagar, a big bus company, took them to court for running an unlicensed transport business that crossed municipal boundaries. Then not only won, but PickupPal got hit for $11,336.07 in fines.

trentway letter

Now PickupPal is hobbled by ludicrous restrictions:

The only way you can ride with someone is if you meet ALL of the following extremely impractical set of specific criteria:

* You must travel from home to work only – (Not Home to School, or Home to the Hospital or the Airport)
* You cannot cross municipal boundaries – (Live outside the city and drive in – sorry you cannot share the ride with your neighbour)
* You must ride with the same driver each day – (Want to mix it up go with one person one day and another person another day – no sorry cannot do that – must be same person each day)
* You must pay the driver no more frequently than weekly – (Neighbour drives you to work better not pay her right away just in case she drives you later on in the week)

The Province is moving to fix the situation; the Transport Minister is quoted by Tyler Hamilton:

"Encouraging more Ontarians to carpool is part of Ontario's plan to reduce harmful emissions, ease traffic congestion and fight climate change. That is why the proposed legislation also includes measures to remove the existing red tape associated with forming carpools in Ontario," Transportation Minister Jim Bradley told legislators yesterday.

michael geist image

Michael Geist, the the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, notes that the case is an example of how the power of the internet comes up against antiquated laws. He writes in the Star:

The PickupPal debate has thus far focused on an outdated provincial law (the government has promised to review the legislation) and the environmental impact of rules that appear to discourage ride sharing.

Yet, there is a bigger story. The law has been rendered out of date because the Internet facilitates new modes of production and organization that enable thousands of people to connect, share and work together in ways that were previously limited to larger, well-organized and well-funded companies. As scholars such as Yochai Benkler and Clay Shirky have persuasively argued, these modes of production provide great promise.

Ride sharing is an obvious example. Before the widespread use of the Internet, small scale ride sharing organization was possible, whether through ride boards in schools or announcements at community events. Those methods hardly posed a threat to established bus services, however. Once thousands began to connect online at virtually no cost, a parallel, community-created ride-sharing service emerged that now challenges established firms for market share.

Many businesses that have relied upon their ability to aggregate and organize as a competitive advantage now find themselves facing similar challenges. Whether it is the remarkable success of Wikipedia as a peer-created online knowledge sharing site, the emergence of Craigslist as a dominant, free classified advertising marketplace, the viability of user-generated content to attract massive audiences, or the use of social networking sites such as Facebook for advocacy purposes, the network economy offers as an "industrial scale" organizing tool at a fraction of the conventional cost.

More on Car Sharing in TreeHugger:
Online Carpooling Connections Get Easier With PickUpPal
Carpool with Facebook
TreeHugger Picks: Dip Your Toe in the Car Pool

Related Content on Treehugger.com