Whether it’s getting to or from school, work, or a night out with friends, safety and reliability of transportation options is a key issue for students and young people.

That’s why the prospect of ridesharing services is so popular. I’m not just talking about people in urban areas like Metro Vancouver or Victoria, but also those in Terrace, Quesnel, and other places around the province. Whether public transit or taxis are plentiful or scarce, communities see ridesharing as a transportation option that compliments existing systems to provide options.

Being a student is expensive. Tuition fees are at a record high and continue to climb; combine that with an affordable housing crisis, out-of-control gas prices, and even the absurd cost of textbooks and it’s little wonder that student loan debt in BC is higher than it’s ever been.

More students are working while going to school than ever before – yet that doesn’t mean they can afford a vehicle to get them around town. After working a late night shift at a bar or at Tim Horton’s, students want to know they can get home safely and affordably – without spending a huge chunk of the wages from their shift.

In addition to being users of ridesharing services, students have the opportunity to make some extra money by being drivers. A huge benefit of the ridesharing model is its flexibility: drivers can choose their own schedule and decide independently how many hours they want to work each day or week. This kind of flexibility allows students to earn money while working around their existing job and class schedule — earning extra income on your own schedule between homework, projects, and studying for exams is extremely valuable.

Issues of safety have been brought up by opponents of ridesharing services. But the reality is, these options are as safe or safer than other forms of transportation. Lyft, for example, provides in-app photos of the driver and vehicle, real-time ride tracking, digital receipts, and two-way rating systems. Additionally, the company requires driving records and professionally administered criminal background checks, has minimum age requirements for drivers, and has a Critical Response Line on its app for customers who believe their personal safety is being threatened.

Ridesharing will bring more options in British Columbia. It provides safe, reliable, affordable, and flexible transportation all the while providing students and young people a way to supplement their income. Ridesharing can be used to supplement current transit systems or be used to fill in transportation gaps until they are fixed. With legislation passed this year enabling the introduction of ridesharing, students are keen to have it implemented within (or earlier than) the proposed timeframe of the end of 2019.

written by Tanysha Klassen, BCFS Chairperson-elect