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Online Carpooling Service Fined In Canada

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the regulatory-capture dept.

Transportation 541

TechDirt is reporting on a disappointing development out of Canada. An Ontario transportation board has fined PickupPal, a Web-based service for arranging carpools, because a local bus company complained of the competition. (TechCrunch apparently first broke the story.) "[The transportation board has] 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."

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541 comments

No sense... (5, Insightful)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761639)

According to the Ontario Highway Transportation Board, there are many restrictions regarding carpooling...

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

Personally, I'm confused as to how they came to these regulations. It's built on a faulty foundation that they could define carpooling as a very strict set of conditions- and then disallow any activity that didn't meet those conditions.

It just plainly doesn't make sense. If I want to share a ride with a complete stranger and split the gas, how is that any different from sharing a ride with a family member? According to these restrictions, I can't drive myself and my mom to the airport and split the gas cost?

It's my car and I'd much prefer to do with it what I'd please- I see absolutely no reason the government has any say in this!!

Other Canadian news:
-In a surprising decision by the Ontario Sandwich Authority, You may no longer split the cost of a foot long sub with somebody else and then each eat half, as it doesn't boost profits to our local sub shops...

Re:No sense... (4, Insightful)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761735)

The really good part of democratic govenments is that you can actually change the rules to improve them. The really bad part is that it's mostly just a theory, and rules only get added, not fixed.

Re:No sense... (4, Insightful)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761839)

Democracy works--in theory.

Re:No sense... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25761961)

All types of government work in theory and not in practice

Re:No sense... (5, Insightful)

Strep (956749) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762007)

This ain't democracy. Was there really a 51% majority that voted for this? Representative democracy works... in theory... if you don't elect idiots as the representatives.

Re:No sense... (0)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762203)

active democracy is worse because nobody gets anything done because they are too busy voting on everything!

Re:No sense... (2, Insightful)

nschubach (922175) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762413)

Not to mention lack of knowledge or care. I posted in another story how my parents pay land tax for local schools, yet someone in town who doesn't pay land tax (because they rent, etc.) will vote for a levy to gain school funds because it sounds like a good thing to them. It's not coming out of their pocket.

Re:No sense... (3, Insightful)

Xoron101 (860506) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762019)

In theory, communism works too! See where that got the animal farm. Some people are just a little more equal than others.

Re:No sense... (5, Funny)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761757)

Oh, there we go again, conservatives crying about the need for deregulation. Poppycock, I say! I say the problem is a lack of regulation! Heap more regulations on top of the pile until it's all fixed, I say! It's a good thing PickupPal got stopped doing their illegal and immoral business practices. Someone has to stand up for the consumers, primarily those of the local bus company.

It's my car and I'd much prefer to do with it what I'd please- I see absolutely no reason the government has any say in this!!

Haven't you heard? Government = Democracy = We The People = We Can Tell You What To Do. Really, why do you conservative blowhards need to kick and scream every time Leviathan tells you, "No, You Can't, For The Greater Good?" You live in a complex society with complex interpersonal interactions, by living in our System you surrender your rights and dignity for the collective so you can live happily and freely. So what if the masses don't understand the implications and issues they vote upon the great deal of the time? At least we live in a marketplace of ideas, which I can tell you is a much better marketplace than the oppressive one with money and goods and slave wages.

Re:No sense... (3, Insightful)

buswolley (591500) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761885)

I am sure you are a victim of your own confirmation bias. There are plenty of cases where government gets it right, plenty of cases where businesses get it wrong.

Re:No sense... (5, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762219)

There are plenty of cases where government gets it right, plenty of cases where businesses get it wrong.

The difference is that I have a choice of which private enterprises I do business with. Short of armed revolt or emigration I don't have that same choice when it comes to Government.

Re:No sense... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762511)

That depends on your government.

In the US, you can change government officials and policy.

Re:No sense... (2, Insightful)

robertjw (728654) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762345)

There are plenty of cases where government gets it right, plenty of cases where businesses get it wrong.

Amazingly enough, no one seems to be able to come up with examples of when the 'government gets it right', just plenty of cases where they get it wrong.

Re:No sense... (2, Interesting)

apathy maybe (922212) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761971)

And the sad thing is that there are actually people who think like this.

Democracy (as the word is commonly used, i.e. to mean elected a bunch of pricks who rule over you, doing what they like until you get the chance to elect them (or another bunch of pricks) again) may well be better than the alternatives tried (it is better to be able to pick your ruler than not, at least that's the theory), but it still is a load of shit.

Try anarchy, now with extra helpings of freedom, and fuck off corporations, state, capitalism and tyranny. We don't need you to tell us what to do.

---

Slightly more on topic, this is absolutely fucking crazy. It doesn't compete with the bus service, because cars are inherently more mobile than a bus run. Cars can go from point A, to point D, without all that visiting points B and C in between.

There are obviously two different markets, one, mass transport along fixed routes, two, point to point transport by small numbers of people.

Not to mention, if as FredFred says, only being able to go to work? Fuck off with that.

Me, I suggest that all interested person's in that province, ignore this fucking stupid law. If it should ever get to a jury trial, you would hope that they wouldn't convict. (Not a lawyer, not sure if this sort of thing is criminal or whatever.)

Re:No sense... (3, Insightful)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762161)

Deregulation has worked great for the US banking industry.

Re:No sense... (1)

nabsltd (1313397) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762353)

Why yes...yes, it has.

I wish I could get some money to cover my relatively intelligent 401(k) investments like the banks are getting to cover their stupid investments.

Re:No sense... (4, Insightful)

nschubach (922175) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762503)

It would have worked if the feds didn't bail out the idiots. They'd be out of business by now.

Re:No sense... (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762319)

But, but ... What if this type of thing continues? Pretty soon anyone will be able to give someone else a ride in a car without asking the government's permission!

What's next? Letting people cut hair without a government license?

Re:No sense... (2, Interesting)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762443)

Sometimes the deregulation can get out of hand. In Miami, the independent Jitneys would cut in front of buses to pick up passengers at city bus stops for something like $0.10 per ride less than the city bus. Ha! Stick it to the man, you say? All was fun and games until three and four Jitneys would start competing on the same route, at the same time, not only looking ridiculous, but completely snarling traffic since they blocked all lanes trying to cut in front of each other to get to the bus stops first. I think they were shut down before any really dramatic safety problems came up...

Re:No sense... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25761841)

Personally, I'm confused as to how they came to these regulations

Benito Mussolini was quoted as saying "All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state."

This carpooling competes with the State; therefore it must be criminalized.

Don't feel too bad, though, Canada - the U.S. under Obama is about to become a socialist hellhole, too.

Re:No sense... (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762389)

So bus companies are run by The State? They're not here in the UK, and I doubt they are in Canada either.

This service seems more like a personals ad messageboard though, to the bus company's brothel. I don't think a carpooling service counts as a transport company.

Hey, if anyone is living in the town centre in Aberdeen, Scotland and wants to carpool to work each day, let me know. *wonders if slashdot is going to get shut down for being an unregulated transport company*

This was on NPR a while back (4, Informative)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761925)

I remember hearing about this story a few months ago on NPR (can't find a link, if someone else can it's worth it to listen to). IIRC, they had an executive from the competing company being interviewed.

Basically, his complaint boiled down to the argument that it wasn't fair that the bus company had to comply with a bunch of expensive regulations, but that a carpooling service didn't.

Re:This was on NPR a while back (4, Insightful)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762189)

As soon as the bus company is merely directing people to buses and not operating said buses, they have a valid complaint.

In the mean time, there is no equivalence.

Re:This was on NPR a while back (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762325)

Basically, his complaint boiled down to the argument that it wasn't fair that the bus company had to comply with a bunch of expensive regulations, but that a carpooling service didn't.

Would it help if they renamed the website "MyCanadianSpace" and called it a social networking site?

Does the liability for facilitating detach if carpooling is not the website's primary purpose?
IE - would they sue MySpace if two people publicly setup an illegal carpool?
If someone on FaceBook created a carpooling app, would they sue FaceBook for facilitating?

I goes beyong being a shitty law and into the realm of bad public policy.

Re:This was on NPR a while back (4, Interesting)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762501)

A carpool is quite a bit different from a bus, provides an entirely different service in an entirely different manner.

In and around Tampa, Florida, the state will GIVE you a van and buy your gas if you get 4 or more people to ride in it 5 days a week (I think they're looking for people with 40+ mile commutes each way). Turns out to be cheaper for the state to supply the vans than for them to increase capacity on the roads clogged with single riders.

Re:No sense... (3, Insightful)

MadCow42 (243108) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761953)

It's protectionism... same as import duties. These rules support the continued operation of an otherwise unsustainable business model (or enhance the profitability of one).

If this model is taking business from the bus company, then that says clearly that it's providing a service or cost-effectiveness that the bus company can't (or isn't willing to). What's a better model for capitalism than this, for driving change and improvement for the customer?

Further, I doubt that a large percentage of the carpooling service would be bus customers anyways... I'd bet that most of them weigh it against the option of driving their own cars. That's good for the environment - fewer cars on the road, and maybe fewer cars altogether.

The only reason this gets messy is because the drivers are taking money for the service, making them an unlicensed small business operator. There's gotta be a better way to address this than outlawing an otherwise good-for-everyone-but-the-bus-company service.

MadCow.

Re:No sense... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25762435)

It's protectionism... same as import duties. These rules support the continued operation of an otherwise unsustainable business model (or enhance the profitability of one).

Hmm... it all makes sense now. This is why General Motors is still in business.

Re:No sense... (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762529)

There's taking money, then there's cost sharing. If the money they're taking doesn't exceed the standard mileage allowance ($.50/mile this year?) then this isn't really being done for profit.

Re:No sense... (5, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761963)

As usual the situation is a little less ridiculous than the blogs make it out to be.

The bus company has a valid point that if I wanted to start a bus service but I didn't want to bother with things like safety regulations or hiring drivers with the appropriate license, I could easy just use the carpool site. The carpool site themselves were (they're not anymore) charging a commission.

The bus company says it's unfair competition because anyone with a car can set themselves up as a mini bus company without the expense of adhering to safety regulations. The transportation board's worry is that there will be a bunch of amateur, unregulated bus/cab drivers running around.

That makes sense (4, Funny)

tkrotchko (124118) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762321)

"The transportation board's worry is that there will be a bunch of amateur, unregulated bus/cab drivers running around."

That makes sense. You wouldn't want the bus drivers to have to share the road with a bunch of untrained amateur drives on the road.

Oh...wait....

Re:No sense... (4, Insightful)

CannedTurkey (920516) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762455)

I have to agree. As much as I wanted to buy into the sensationalist headline, there really are some valid concerns. For me though, the real issue wasn't that the system could be used to set up such a 'business' but instead, was it? Picking up random people and driving them to work isn't carpooling, it's a taxi service, and as such it needs to be regulated for the same reasons. Safety, insurance, etc.

Re:No sense... (1)

IP_Troll (1097511) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761991)

I believe in the democratic process. Let your representatives know how you feel.
Ontario Highway Transport Board
http://www.ohtb.gov.on.ca/eng/main.html [gov.on.ca]
Telephone: 416-326-6732
Fax: 416-326-6738
e-mail: ohtb@mto.gov.on.ca

10th Floor, 151 Bloor Street West
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2T5
Canada

Re:No sense... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25762197)

I agree with you. However, it makes more sense to look at this historically.

Canada is a big place with a very small population. For the most part, it is not feasible to have competition to transport people from different cities. So, the gov stepped in and gave different transport companies a limited monopoly between cites. What companies can charge is then regulated.

What this means is that consumers take a hit, because they are paying a higher cost than perfect competition would bring, but a slightly lower cost than if it was a pure monopoly.

The problem here is that most regions cannot support competition. The bus companies are using this regulation to beat down a perfectly good idea.

So, yes I agree with you. However, like most things reality is more complex than many /. folks like to think. Perfect competition ain't going to happen, and these rules exist. This is a new innovative idea, and in my humble opinion we need to make some exceptions rather than following the status quo.

Re:No sense... (1)

NotNormallyNormal (1311339) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762233)

This really does make no sense. When we lived in Calgary, my wife had to commute to 3 towns away for work. She would carpool with at least one other if not to other people and would take turns driving each day. This would suck - she would spend almost a weeks worth of pay to drive herself each month...

I ride my bike to work. It is almost as fast as the bus and definitely cheaper. Plus it keeps me fit. It isn't any greener of course since the bus runs with or without me but I also have the ability to leave on my own schedule and not have to wait hourly for the bus.

If these rules prevented me or my wife from travelling how we wished, I think I would take the board to court - or at least file a complaint with the government. At least we live in a more free society out here in the west ;)

Re:No sense... (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762243)

I didn't see in the article when the money changes hands. I'm guessing there's some element of this service that isn't free, which makes the carpool service a commercial transport provider, and so that makes them subject to whatever laws govern transportation up there. There's probably tax issues involved here too. At what point does your "carpooling with strangers" hobby make you an unlicensed taxi driver?

Re:No sense... (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762365)

What doesn't make sense? You're taking business away from the Taxi / Limo services, they've got established hooks into government, they get government to protect their businesses. To hell with considerations like efficiency, the environment, freedom of choice, or common sense, this is the political machine you're messin' with, man.

Re:No sense... (3, Insightful)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762377)

>If I want to share a ride with a complete stranger and split the gas, how is that any different from sharing a ride with a family
>member?

It's not different until you operate a service that allows drivers to share rides with complete strangers for a fare.
Then you become a taxicab company, even if it's a non-profit one. You suddenly have the problems of personal versus public transportation insurance, accommodation for handicapped users, and tax liabilities. If you can somehow make an argument that YOUR service is DIFFERENT, the taxi and private bus companies are going to use those SAME arguments, and then *every* taxi becomes "a carpool rideshare service", and they use your loophole to avoid things like insurance, tax, licensing, and safety regulations.

You can still privately arrange carpools however you want, and you can even negotiate compensation for gas and wear-and-tear on the vehicle and stuff. You just can't setup a taxicab company and call it a duck.

Re:No sense... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762477)

OTOH, if you don't followe those rules, then you are not car pooling, so then what?
Then you are just someone getting a ride.

So this company needs to stop using the term 'Car pooling' and call it 'Finding a lift'

Canadians carpool? (0)

RemoWilliams84 (1348761) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761651)

I didn't know horses were big enough for more than two people anyway.

Re:Canadians carpool? (-1, Troll)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761789)

Don't be a bigot. They all ride snowmobiles now. The horses are only used by the French Canadians, for sexual purposes.

Re:Canadians carpool? (3, Funny)

Aniyn (1268450) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761919)

We call them "Mounties", in a delicious pun.

Re:Canadians carpool? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25762361)

All you gringos bashing Canada are just pissed off that you're American...

Canada (1)

mfh (56) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761677)

I live in Canada, but sometimes I'm not proud of our idealism. This is one of those times.

Calling this Draconian doesn't illuminate the bureaucratic essence enough. Machiavelli would be proud of the Ontario Transit Board. I heard they were planning to offer bounties on the heads of the webmasters involved, but only if they were impaled on 50' spikes and lined up in front of Capitol Hill, but that was just a rumor because the 40' spikes weren't long enough to confuse us.

Walking (1, Insightful)

Andr T. (1006215) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761679)

Everyday I walk 20 minutes to get to work. I could take the bus - wich would take just as long, and would cost me much more.

So, how long until walking is prohibited? It seems pretty unfair to me, looking this way.

Re:Walking (4, Interesting)

Wells2k (107114) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761797)

This sort of reminds me of a short story that Asimov wrote about a boy who decided he no longer wanted to use the transporters in every home in order to go to school. He preferred walking to school each day instead, much to the horror of his mother.

It just... piqued my memory, I guess.

Re:Walking (1)

titzandkunt (623280) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762061)

That would be It's Such a Beautiful Day [wikipedia.org]

Always liked that one myself - as much as Bradbury's story about the man who rebelled against the omnipresent communications devices that infested the near future, The Murderer [purdue.edu].

Sometimes science fiction entertains, sometimes it bores, sometimes it warns...

Re:Walking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25761809)

SHHHH!!!

Don't give them any more ideas, please.

Kudos! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25761873)

Everyday I walk 20 minutes to get to work. I could take the bus - wich would take just as long, and would cost me much more.

So, how long until walking is prohibited? It seems pretty unfair to me, looking this way.

You sir, have a very promising career ahead of you as a government bureaucrat! You may even have a secondary career as a bureaucrat trainer.

Re:Walking (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761915)

Everyday I walk 20 minutes to get to work. I could take the bus - wich would take just as long, and would cost me much more.

But it wouldn't ruin your geek cred by getting in shape. Image is everything, man!

DDR isn't just for East Germany anymore (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762337)

But it wouldn't ruin your geek cred by getting in shape. Image is everything, man!

In some circles, being in shape can actually enhance your geek cred. For instance, this geek gets an A [youtube.com].

What kind of fucking bullshit is this? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25761693)

Seriously. The government should have no say in this, either in their part or on the behalf of others.

Just Lie Back And Enjoy It (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25761709)

Everyone knows government is best suited to provide us with our most basic needs: housing, healthcare, and transportation.

Get ready U.S.isan's - your turn is next.

You're Doing It Wrong (4, Interesting)

serutan (259622) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761711)

I thought the government was only supposed to provide services that the private sector can't or won't provide with reasonable cost and quality.

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (2, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761901)

Depends on your type of government. The more you move toward socialism, the more the government is concerned with creating jobs through this sort of hackery.

Once you start protecting industries purely because they employ people, you're in trouble.

Right now in the US, it's the automakers. The traditional rationale for protecting them is because our national security requires the manufacturing base (in case we have to switch it over to tanks, for example).

But when the government props an industry up, it becomes less efficient. Recessional trimming is necessary to keep businesses from institutional bloat; it forces them to explore alternatives, improve their products, and to trim their workforce. If they never have to do that, then they'll never be competitive with companies that do.

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761929)

The problem is is that "reasonable" is extremely subjective, often based more upon what the consumers is used to or sees in comparison for other consumers elsewhere. Then the people fist-pound over their rights as a consumer over the service and goods produced by the companies because essentially people (and yes, companies too work this way) want the best they can get and will always excuse it in their minds, so getting the government to make deals that benefit THEM even if it's taking things from other people is usually the norm in a democratic system. After all, everything is up for voting upon in a democracy, and people tend to view those that have more as not fairly sharing the wealth or not giving them what they deserve.

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (3, Funny)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762459)

...everything is up for voting upon in a democracy, and people tend to view those that have more as not fairly sharing the wealth or not giving them what they deserve. Which is why I'm in favor of "Equal Access" legislation that requires supermodels to go on just as many dates with homely computer geeks as they do with handsome movie actors and pop stars. I'm calling it the "Cowboy Neal Dating Fairness Act of 2008". I hope you will all support me in insuring this bill becomes law!

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (2, Insightful)

metamechanical (545566) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762077)

I thought the government was only supposed to provide services that the private sector can't or won't provide with reasonable cost and quality.

Which is exactly what's happening here - I'm sure if there was a private sector company that provided services to the bus companies like imposing draconian regulations onto carpoolers, the bus companies would never have needed to turn to the government to provide these services!

Outdated laws are being changed (5, Informative)

IPCanuck (1055714) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761787)

There is a bill already before the Ontario Legislative Assembly to update the regulations to explicitly allow this practice. It is disappointing that the OTB didn't wait until the bill had passed before passing judgement, but at least we can hope the situation won't last long. The same bill would outlaw some common driver distractions, such as television screens and handheld cell phones.

http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/bills/bills_detail.do?locale=en&BillID=2099 [ontla.on.ca]

Re:Outdated laws are being changed (3, Informative)

Dzimas (547818) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762303)

Hmm. There's a gaping hole in the new legislation when it comes to banning devices with screens. The new law prohibits me for using a laptop with a GPS receiver for navigation, because the device could be used for other functions. Same goes for the iPhone. I despise legislation like this because it's already outdated and riddled with holes before it goes into effect.

Thats... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25761791)

GAY.

Oh wait... I could probably go to jail for saying that in Canada.

Re:Thats... (2, Funny)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762297)

How coïncidental, there's an open jobposition for the local gay-insult-man here in Canada.
We're offering you this position, with a competitive wage.
All expenses for your travel and stay are ofcourse compensated for.

Eagerly anticipating your arrival...

Re:Thats... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25762523)

Ha ha... yes, I read the news [wired.com].

Oh, and regarding GP post: yes, troll, but the sort of troll that I find amusing to no end. That's just my sense of humour, I guess.

P.S: Good show. I moderated you funny, FWIW.

Goooo Unions! (2, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761807)

Because nothing says "Good System!" like using your lobbying clout to get the government to shut down your more efficient competition.

If you can't compete, then you shouldn't be in the game.

Re:Goooo Unions! (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762267)

If by "compete" you mean defeat your opponent by any means necessary, including lobbying and protective rule-making, I'd say the bus company is competing just fine.

Did you mean something like "compete on the merits"? How quaint.

The rule of business is, "Don't get caught doing anything illegal. Preferably by making what you're doing legal and what your competition is doing illegal."

Really, if you think about it, the bus guys are winning at the metagame [wikipedia.org]. That's competition. The carpoolers are losing because they're playing the wrong game.

(No, I'm not happy about, and I'm sure as Hell not trying to justify, this ruling. I simply point out that this is the way it is, and that the concepts of "fairness" and "merit" as we learned them as children appear to have no meaning in business.)

Okay I was wrong.. (3, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761811)

I read the link figuring that there must be some good reason for this law. It may be an outdated reason but I figure there must still be some reason.
I was wrong.
Of course it reminds me of something that happened to me at work.
My company sold software to a Canadian government agency. They pay a yearly fee for updates and support. On day I got a call from the Canadian tax department. They wanted to know how much the update disks we where shipping to the other agency where worth. This was before the Internet was available to mortals.
Well six floppies so about six dollars. I told them the updates where free.
They kept arguing with me to tell them how much the updates where worth. It seems that they needed to charge tax the people that where receiving the updates.... I told them that IT WAS THERE OWN GOVERNMENT!!!!
The told me that it didn't matter. So I asked them this ,"You need to know how much to charge the government so you can give that money to the government?"
They said yes, and didn't even laugh. In fact they where a little ticked that I couldn't see the logic in it.
I told them that they had just invented Taxabation and they hung up on me.
We talked to our clients and set up a bbs so they could download the updates from then on.

Re:Okay I was wrong.. (1, Informative)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762481)

It sounds a bit like this [techdirt.com] story about Apple charging for the software to upgrade your wireless to 802.11n (purely a firmware/driver issue) because they thought Sarbanes Oxley required it.

In other words, it wasn't so much a legal issue as much as an accounting issue. People don't know how to deal with $0.00 items in accounting appearently.

How do you enforce this? (3, Insightful)

glgraca (105308) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761879)

Are they going to randomly stop cars with more than one person and question everybody? Or maybe they'll have undercover police. We could even have a new CSI CPU (Carpool Unit).

Re:How do you enforce this? (2, Informative)

Giltron (592095) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762089)

That is the joke of this whole thing...they would never be able to enforce this. PickupPal is just a convenient location to arrange rides. There are millions of message boards on the internet, how are they going to monitor EVERY message board on the internet for these types of car pooling groups??

Re:How do you enforce this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25762295)

They can't, but they can go after the low hanging fruit.

Article Biased... (5, Informative)

Atlantis-Rising (857278) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761889)

The article is heavily biased, although this isn't terribly surprising.

Pickup Pal is a service that allows individuals to arrange not only carpools. Specifically, it allows drivers and passengers to arrange compensation for trips.

Does this remind you of anything else? Oh, yes, a taxi company (or bus company, take your pick) which is Trentway-Wagar's complaint.

The bus company, which TW is, as an organization that arranges for buses to transport passengers for money, is bound by a series of provincial vehicle travel laws which require its drivers to be insured, to possess the correct licenses for their vehicles, and so on.

There are, in fact, specific exceptions in the specified Acts for car-pooling, but it appears that Pickup Pal does not satisfy them for various reasons (which should actually be quite obvious, prima facie).

The difficulty is that Pickup Pal is obviously not merely offering a carpool service. They are also obviously not offering a public taxi service or a bus service, either, but the carpool service has a defined exception in the law.

The law, the board argues, exists to protect riders. Drivers are to be insured, carry the proper licenses for their vehicles, and so on. (Insurance issues, which is a major public interest in cases such as these, form a major part of the Board's concern. Insuring a public vehicle is very different from insuring a private car and the caps on insurance are often much higher.)

As a result, Pickup Pal was ordered to immediately cease taking any actions that would put them in violation of the Public Vehicles Act.

Pickup Pal argues that they have nothing to do with the service, that they merely arrange this. The Board does not agree, for good reason- a taxicab company could make an identical argument. Such an argument is unpersuasive. There is a compelling public policy argument to regulating public vehicles and carriers and so on. For abiding by these regulations, Trentway-Wagar incurs costs, and they found it unfair that another provider would be able to avoid the regulations and thereby avoid the costs- hence the charge of unfair competition.

The summary writes that the regulations are making things worse for the consumer. I beg to disagree. Unsafe public transportation is worse than expensive public transportation, and there is a compelling public policy reason for regulating public transportation for safety's sake- regulations that Pickup Pal did not abide by.

Re:Article Biased... (2, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762227)

I guess I'd be a lot more interested in the facts from which you derive your conclusions rather than the conclusions themselves. It sounds to me like PickupPal is simply an electronic "ride board", and little more.

Re:Article Biased... (5, Insightful)

superdave80 (1226592) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762343)

Specifically, it allows drivers and passengers to arrange compensation for trips.

Does this remind you of anything else? Oh, yes, a taxi company (or bus company, take your pick)...

The difference being that the taxicab/bus company itself makes money on each ride. PickupPal does not receive any money from the passenger or driver. Are they going to fine the phone company when I call my friend up and we arrange a road trip where he agrees to pay for half the gas? What about the message boards at colleges where drivers and passengers arrange for long trips back home? Sue the college?

Specifically, it allows drivers and passengers to arrange compensation for trips.

Between the driver and passenger, which is a private transaction that has nothing to do with PickupPal. It is not a transaction between the driver, passenger, and 'arranging' entity (taxicab company). Now, if you want to go after a driver because he is accepting money for a ride without having a taxi license, then go ahead. But going after PickupPal is just absurd.

Re:Article Biased... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25762407)

If the car you rode in said "Pickup Pal" on the side, I'd see the logic in regulating them. As it stands, they're just connecting two individuals – one of whom is willing to provide a service for cost, and one who is willing to pay for the service.

I Live in Ontario (4, Interesting)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761909)

I have never heard of these regulations. I doubt very much they are enforced at all. The fact that the got fined is only due to a complaint. If A) the public was aware, or B) the Premier was aware of those regulations, it would be dead in a week. This is actually very stupid move by the bus company if they are really worried about competition. I mean really, the province just started installing car pool only lanes on the 401, are they going to now say they are not committed to this sort of activity. Silly.

If I were PickupPal I would not pay the fine and write two letters, one to our Premier, and one sent to the various mainstream media outlets also indicating a letter was sent to the Premier.

This will kill the fine, kill the regs, and likely promote PickupPal, and car pooling in general. That's a quadruple win I think.

Re:I Live in Ontario (2, Informative)

compro01 (777531) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762387)

This is a case of old regulations last updated over a decade ago being applied in an unexpected and silly, though legally consistent, manner.

There's already a bill in progress [ontla.on.ca] in the Ontario legislature to update this stuff, specifically, the changes to the public vehicle act about 2/3rds down the page.

Jurisdiction over the web (3, Interesting)

NastyNate (398542) | more than 5 years ago | (#25761937)

seeing that PickupPal is a web based company, can't they just more their operations outside of the Ontario transportation board's jurisdiction and tell them where to shove their fine?

Unregulated Business (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762003)

Hey. Surely it all to the good that these cowboy capitalists have been brought properly under regulation, isn't it? Can't have people going around doing things without permission!

Re:Unregulated Business (1)

tyler.willard (944724) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762251)

Yeah...because dodgy hedge funds collaborating with unscrupulous rating agencies to leverage fraudulent securities is the same thing as byzantine transportation laws.

Rage - RAAOTB (1)

PincusJr (1310977) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762109)

Rage Against An Ontario Transportation Board, featuring vocalist Zack de la Rocha, guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford, and drummer Brad Wilk.

Similar Case In Germany (3, Interesting)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762133)

If I remember correctly there was a something similar in Germany. A cleaning company had a lot of workers who lived in an particular outlying town so the cleaning company got a passenger van to drive them back and forth. The local bus/train service then took them to court because of the lost business. I cannot remember how it all ended up but I seem to think that the cleaning company lost. (They got "taken to the cleaners" so to speak.)

Right.... help the "consumers" (-1, Redundant)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762135)

One of the things that modern society seems incapable of understanding is that erring on the laissez faire side of things can create really interesting services with minimal hassle. People focus excessively on perceived problems like "oh nos... without intrusive government regulations, the water would be poisoned!!" when a capitalist approach, holding those who harm others civilly and criminally liable for harm to limb and property would suffice in most cases.

These regulatory boards look great on paper to the sort of people who see the world through the rosy colored lenses of community involvement, communitarian ethics, etc., but they don't really work. The FCC is a glorious example of how such regulatory boards invariably get utterly coopted by those they are supposed to regulate.

The moral of stories like this is simple. If you are going to implement semi-socialistic policies like public busing or giving a company a monopoly on providing a bus service, at least have the good sense to compartmentalize that so much that it doesn't interfere with any other aspect of public life.

Re:Right.... help the "consumers" (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762213)

Part of what you're describing is an assumption that people will be harmed and will then have to go through the effort and cost of a legal battle for compensation or to affect change. That sounds great! Don't you think that reality should really be somewhere in-between?

Re:Right.... help the "consumers" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25762527)

Of course people who espouse laissez-faire policies also decry the fact that we are too litigious, if litigation is our only recourse then what do we do? The only people who get justice are those who can afford to litigate it? Seems a bit much to me. Obviously the answer lies somewhere in between. P.S. I do not wholly disagree with you, but a blanket fix for no regulation doesn't hold water.

The bus company: Trentway-Wagar/Coach Canada (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25762217)

According to the Ontario Highway Transporation Board decision [pickuppal.com] [PDF], the bus company that brought the complaint is Trentway-Wagar, which is part of Coach [coachcanada.com] Canada [wikipedia.org], which also includes Erie Coach Lines, Autocar Connaisseur, and Gray Line and a numbered company in Quebec (refer to the Wikipedia pages). Coach Canada is apparently an affiliate of Coach USA, and both are a part of the massive Stagecoach Group [wikipedia.org].

Perhaps where the OTSB and the legislation has failed, consumer choice can make a difference. I know I'll try to avoid them next time I'm travelling in Ontario.

Ah, the lie of regulation (1)

tkrotchko (124118) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762229)

Regulations like this are never for consumer benefit; they are always to protect the incumbent providing service.

Whether or not this is a good thing depends very much why this is being done.

Ontario Legislature Bill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25762269)

Why is there no mention of the current bill in the Ontario legislature that's aiming to change these slightly outdated laws.

Simple solution that lets them say "GFY" (2, Interesting)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#25762469)

traceroute shows they're currently hosted on servers-etx.hgn.ca, which are located in Ontario, Canada.

Just move the server to another country, and tell the Ontario Transport Ministry to "Go Fuck Yourself", same as businesses in Quebec host their sites outside of Quebec and tell the Office de la langue francais "Mange la merde." The OLF always backs down when push comes to shove over the question of regulating internet content, since they don't have jurisdiction - the internet is regulated exclusively by the feds via the CRTC.

While they're at it, they should cite the CRTC regulations that make the internet solely federal jurisdiction, and again tell them to "Go Fuck Yourself - Twice."

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