Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Transportation Government News Your Rights Online

Online Carpooling Service Fined In Canada 541

Posted by kdawson
from the regulatory-capture dept.
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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Online Carpooling Service Fined In Canada

Comments Filter:
  • No sense... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FredFredrickson (1177871) * on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:52PM (#25761639) Homepage Journal
    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... (Score:4, Informative)

      by FredFredrickson (1177871) * on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:53PM (#25761661) Homepage Journal
      Sorry, the link : http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/11/12/ill-never-let-canada-live-this-down/
    • Re:No sense... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nerdfest (867930) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:57PM (#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... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MindlessAutomata (1282944) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:05PM (#25761839)

        Democracy works--in theory.

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

          by Strep (956749) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:16PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by blueg3 (192743)

            Democracy generally only requires plurality and not majority. (Though, I suppose, if there are only two choices, those are the same.)

            It strikes me that in representative democracy, the difficulty of not electing idiots increases as the democratic pool increases. Your ability to influence federal elections (even if they didn't favor whoever is pseudo-arbitrarily chosen by the Democratic and Republican parties) is enormously smaller than your ability to influence local elections. It seems this is the big bene

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Xoron101 (860506)
          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... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by philspear (1142299) on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:15PM (#25762943)

            The cold war is over, I don't think anyone would object if you used Soviet Russia itself as an example of what goes wrong with communism. It was a little more complicated than the animal farm's failure, for example, largely failing because it's not a good economic system, not because Gorbachev started walking on two feet instead of four.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ShieldW0lf (601553)

          We don't have a true democracy. We don't get to choose who we vote for, we get to choose from a short list of candidates approved by those with economic power. We don't get to vote on issues, but have to vote for a representative we wouldn't have picked for ourselves if we'd been able to choose anyone we wanted. And finally, we don't get to revoke our vote when it no longer reflects our views, but are forced to hand our political power off to someone for years at a time with no recourse should they abuse

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

            by Alaska Jack (679307) on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:46PM (#25763443) Journal
            Informative though it may have been modded, this take on democracy is wrong, at least as far as the U.S. goes (it's not clear whether by "we" you mean the U.S., Canada, or the western world). The U.S. was not the world's first democracy. But it was the first large-scale attempt at it that tried to draw on the lessons of the past. Did you know that every surviving account of democracy (Athens, Italian city-states, etc) was harshly *critical* of it? Greek observers of the day, for example, wrote what were even by modern standards very sophisticated, insightful critiques of democracy and the way it eventually boiled down to simple mob rule. What was revolutionary about what the Americans did was the way they attempted (drawing on the previous work of French, English and Scottish enlightenment theorists) to develop and implement a *hybrid* system, one that blended aspects of authoritarianism and democracy in a way that emphasized the best aspects of each and ameliorated their weaknesses. So, for example, some people think that the reason they didn't implement direct democracy is because they didn't have the practical means to disseminate information, vote, etc. This is not true. The American founders didn't WANT direct democracy, because historically that had inevitably lead to a tyranny of the majority. They wanted educated, worldly men to make the decisions ... but they wanted the people to choose WHICH educated, worldly men made those decisions. - Alaska Jack
        • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Friday November 14, 2008 @03:26PM (#25764043)

          Democracy works--in theory.

          In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cbiltcliffe (186293)

        I live in Canada. Ontario, actually.

        I have an appointment to see my MPP (Member of Provincial Parliament, for you non-Canadians) in a couple of weeks regarding another issue.

        I'll sure as hell be letting him know I'm very unimpressed with this, and grilling him as to how the government can control what people do with their private cars, as long as no road regulations are broken.

    • by MindlessAutomata (1282944) on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:58PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by buswolley (591500)
        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... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Shakrai (717556) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:29PM (#25762219) Journal

          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: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by robertjw (728654)

          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... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@@@yahoo...com> on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:54PM (#25762635) Homepage Journal

            There is a saying:

            A company does a hundred things wrong, and 1 right you only here about the 1 decision. The government does 1000 things right and 1 wrong, you only hear about the wrong one.

            This is true.
            A company just needs to to tralk about it's failures, and very few people know. The government has a lot of people whose sole purpose is to tell everyone when smething goes wrong.

            I worked in the private sector for about 38 years, and now I work for a city government. I see aso many thing being done correctly, for the benefit of the citizen. I see projects that are completed on time and within budget all the time.
            I see a lot less waste. (you can confuirm that by going to the labrary and looking at the numbers)

            But a son as 1 thing goes wrong, it's headlines. Sometimes it
            s becasue of a stupid elected official, sometimes it's due to unforseen factors. Like the price of rock suddenly going through the roof, sometimes it looks like a mistake because of a lack of facts.

            Bear in mind even a moderately size City has 1000's of projects going on every day.
            I ahve been pleasantly surprised working for the government. I have also learned a lot about why things seem so expensive.

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

            by eddy the lip (20794) on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:04PM (#25762777)

            Seriously? Off the top of my head things that the Canadian gov't "gets right" (and I won't quibble over what the hell that means):

            1) post office
            2) fire department
            3) law enforcement
            4) military
            5) liquor distribution

            That's just a handful, and for the sake of discussion I'm leaving off a few high profile, controversial services that we'll just end up arguing about.

            Here in Alberta, Canada, a couple that private corporations are busy screwing up:

            1) electricity. This was de-regulated here a few years back, and prices sky rocketed nearly overnight.

            2) liquor distribution. We handed it over to private enterprise and prices dropped. For a year. I just visited our neighbour, BC, where it is still government run, and they have as good availability (I was shocked to walk into a corner store at midnight and find that they had a fully stocked gov't liquor store open), and most items are a good 10% cheaper.

            I don't actually have a problem with liquor distribution being privately run. It's not an essential service; but if the benchmark is "serving the consumer better", it failed.

            I don't think having the government run everything would work out so well, but this canard that it's inherently inefficient and private enterprise always does it better has got to be put to bed.

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

              by Alaska Jack (679307) on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:52PM (#25763587) Journal

              "2) liquor distribution. We handed it over to private enterprise and prices dropped. For a year. I just visited our neighbour, BC, where it is still government run, and they have as good availability (I was shocked to walk into a corner store at midnight and find that they had a fully stocked gov't liquor store open), and most items are a good 10% cheaper."

              This is breathtakingly naive. *You are paying* for the availability and the relative "cheapness" of the government-subsidized liquor store ... and so is everyone else, *even those who don't drink*. The funds you pay are called "taxes." Furthermore, you are almost *certainly* paying *more* than you would if it were not a government operation ... as has been shown thousands of times, governments simply do not have the same incentives to achieve the same high levels of efficiency that businesses competing against each other do.

                  - Alaska Jack

              • Re:No sense... (Score:4, Informative)

                by eddy the lip (20794) on Friday November 14, 2008 @03:32PM (#25764147)
                Actually, when Alberta sold of the ALCB, it was turning a profit. Thank you for playing.
      • Re:No sense... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:25PM (#25762161) Journal

        Deregulation has worked great for the US banking industry.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          hey they all made millions, its only the taxpayers it didn't work for!

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

          by nschubach (922175) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:46PM (#25762503) Journal

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

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

          by Chandon Seldon (43083) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:49PM (#25762557) Homepage

          Talking about more or less regulation (as the word "deregulation" does), is useless. A regulated market needs two things: Policy that makes sense, and exactly that minimum set of regulations necessary to reasonably implement that policy.

          People who are for "deregulation" generally assume that we started with neither of those things, and so removing some regulation will make things less screwed up. Those against "deregulation" assume we started with a situation reasonably close to those things and removing some regulations will break everything. And you know what they say about assumptions...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ArcherB (796902)

          Deregulation has worked great for the US banking industry.

          Actually, it was over-regulation that broke the US banking industry. When you force banks to give loans to people without any means of paying them back, the banks are going to fail. If you just leave the banks to decide who they loan money to, they tend to make sure that their customer is able to pay it back before giving out this year's Christmas bonuses.

          • Re:No sense... (Score:4, Informative)

            by mabhatter654 (561290) on Friday November 14, 2008 @03:08PM (#25763791)

            wrong. The "forcing" companies to make loans was only a few companies that were caught gaming the books. The feds choose to have them "help the poor" rather than levy appropriate fines. That said, they should have been harsh and shut down the FMs when they cooked the books years ago in spite of the harm because their cheating is what brought down the system. Mercy is what cause the banking crisis not regulations.

            A standard "poor" FHA loan allows 7-9.5% interest when going rate for mortgages was 5.5%. Trouble was that they started "betting against" the sub par loans.. then they started loaning people with "good" credit vastly over extended sums to put them into loans rated for "poor" people (hence the zero down, interest only loans... hint "poor" don't get those... ever) Until they saturated that market. Realize they "bet against" those same people multiple times over (5-20 times the value of the amount borrowed!) They structured these "bets" like insurance, but just enough different to require zero regulation... until the market was saturated then when a small number couldn't pay the thing crashed.

            In short, they took a punishment for not playing by the rules, pretended to do a "good thing", then continued to invent new ways to bend the rules on a massive scale while setting normal people up to fail.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by ArcherB (796902)

              wrong. The "forcing" companies to make loans was only a few companies that were caught gaming the books. The feds choose to have them "help the poor" rather than levy appropriate fines. That said, they should have been harsh and shut down the FMs when they cooked the books years ago in spite of the harm because their cheating is what brought down the system. Mercy is what cause the banking crisis not regulations.

              Uh, those few companies that you spoke are FannieMae and FreddieMac, who combined make up a vast majority of loans made in the US. They are pretty much in control of mortgages, student loans, auto loans, business loans, etc. So, by saying that it is "a few companies" is a bit of an understatement. But one point you don't dispute is that they were "forced" to give loans to people who couldn't pay them back, regardless of the rate.

              However, you could have (should have?) pointed out that much of the problem

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by JoeMerchant (803320)
        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 firs
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by WuphonsReach (684551)
          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
    • by langelgjm (860756) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:10PM (#25761925) Journal

      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.

      • by Fallingcow (213461) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:27PM (#25762189) Homepage

        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.

      • by JoeMerchant (803320) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:46PM (#25762501) Homepage

        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.

        • by C_L_Lk (1049846) on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:21PM (#25763053) Homepage

          For the record, I live in the same town ad the bus company that brought this all to a head (trentway-wager).

          They had a point in their initial concern, however the way the transportation board handled this was all wrong. There were van operators who were unlicenced and unregulated, who basically bought large 10-15 person vans, and were advertising on PickupPal for "intercity transportation" (e.g. rides to Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, etc.). They were abusing PickupPal to basically operate a Van and Taxi service. Unfortunately, instead of the transportation board finding out who those unlicenced operators were and cracking down and fining them, they decided to take their wrath out on the website and screw it up for everyone else who were following the "spirit" of the website.

          • by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:43PM (#25763405) Homepage Journal

            Unlicensed van drives? As in they didn't have a drivers license? Or they didn't have some arbitrary piece of paper that said they couldn't drive around a bunch of strangers?

            • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 14, 2008 @03:00PM (#25763673)

              Unlicensed van drives? As in they didn't have a drivers license? Or they didn't have some arbitrary piece of paper that said they couldn't drive around a bunch of strangers?

              Every jurisdiction that I know of requires special licensing for the driver and has restrictions on the vehicle (usually in the form of increased insurance coverage) for people or companies that conduct passengers in cars for money. They are called taxis|limosenes|buses.

              Are you implying that taxies shouldn't be regulated?

              It makes sense to limit carpooling so that operators are not calling themselves carpoolers to avoid regulations. That presumes that the taxi|bus regulations are rational in the first place.

              However, the restrictions that the Ontario Transportation Board (or whatever it calls itself) has put in place are idiotic.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by fishbowl (7759)

          >A carpool is quite a bit different from a bus

          The company in the article operates something that is not reasonably different enough from a taxi service, that taxi services could use their example to avoid paying taxes, commercial insurance, or requiring licensed drivers.

          There's still no law that would prevent you from having a carpool. You can even negotiate with your riders for compensation. What you can't do is operate a service that is essentially a taxicab, without following the local laws that reg

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

      by MadCow42 (243108) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:12PM (#25761953) Homepage

      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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by johneee (626549)

        It is indeed protectionism, absolutely, but not necessarily in the way you think it is.

        The rules absolutely are draconian and absurd the way they're written, but I understand the intent. If there were no rules whatsoever, then we'd have a situation where someone could run an unlicenced taxi company or even a bus company. While I can't see that anybody is being harmed by ride sharing as intended by the carpooling website (and in fact there are considerable environmental and economic benefits) it might not

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by grimarr (223895)

          It's been a while since I was actively flying, but as a private pilot, I was not allowed to carry passengers for hire or compensation (that required a commercial certificate at least). However, I was allowed to share the cost of a flight. That seems like an exactly analogous situation. If I recall correctly, one of the main factors in determining whether a passenger was paying for the ride or sharing the cost was whether the pilot would have made the flight without the passenger. If so, that's pretty go

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

      by ceoyoyo (59147) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:13PM (#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.

      • by tkrotchko (124118) * on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:35PM (#25762321) Homepage

        "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... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by CannedTurkey (920516) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:43PM (#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... (Score:4, Informative)

          by Fox_1 (128616) on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:13PM (#25762911)
          Historically there's been problems with this kind of car pooling service. A number of years ago a company (allo cars? or something) was doing the same type of service. Some of the drivers were using big old crappy vans with no seatbelts. That continued until one of the vans wiped out and the company was shutdown.

          The point is it's a great idea to car pool and to coordinate that with others on a website. It's a bad idea for people looking to make a buck to co-opt the website and run unlicensed, uninsured and unsafe private taxi/bus service. That is what was happening here.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fishbowl (7759)

      >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 Y

    • Re:No sense... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Rary (566291) on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:04PM (#25762773)

      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.

      They're not disallowing anything. They're simply defining a carpool. Something that doesn't fit into that definition isn't disallowed, it's just not officially a carpool.

      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?

      You're more than welcome to do that. The problem here isn't sharing a ride with a stranger. The problem here is a business facilitating that sharing. The decision is basically saying that they are not facilitating carpooling, by the legal definition of carpooling, and that therefore what they are doing is facilitating transportation of passengers in public vehicles. The problem is that operators of public transportation vehicles must be licensed to operate a public vehicle, which these drivers are not.

      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!!

      They don't. Carry on transporting whoever you want. Even call it a carpool if you want. No one cares. But don't try to operate a business facilitating public transportation without the appropriate licenses.

  • by serutan (259622) <snoopdougNO@SPAMgeekazon.com> on Friday November 14, 2008 @12:56PM (#25761711) Homepage

    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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SatanicPuppy (611928) *

      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 becom

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      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!

  • by IPCanuck (1055714) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:00PM (#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]
    • by Dzimas (547818) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:34PM (#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.
      • by powerlord (28156) on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:19PM (#25762999) Journal

        No, there isn't a glaring hole. The law specifically says you CAN use those devices, so long as you are not holding them.

        If you can't use the device in a "hands-free" mode, then you probably shouldn't be the one trying to use it and drive. If you CAN (mount the laptop w/GPS somewhere you can see it, or rely on its "voice notifications"), then there isn't a problem. If you have to try holding a laptop w/GPS, and driving, then for safety's sake, you should probably just get a Car GPS like the rest of the Joe-Sixpacks, instead of insisting on making "one device do everything").

        This seems no different than the rash of similar "No cellphone while driving" laws that have popped up in the states.

        From the law:

        2. Part VI of the Act is amended by adding the following section:
        Hand-held devices prohibited
        Wireless communication devices

        78.1
        (1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held wireless communication device or other prescribed device that is capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communications, electronic data, mail or text messages.
        Entertainment devices

        (2) No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a hand-held electronic entertainment device or other prescribed device the primary use of which is unrelated to the safe operation of the motor vehicle.
        Hands-free mode allowed

        (3) Despite subsections (1) and (2), a person may drive a motor vehicle on a highway while using a device described in those subsections if the person is not holding the device.
        Exceptions

        (4) Subsection (1) does not apply to,
        (a) the driver of an ambulance, fire department vehicle or police department vehicle;
        (b) any other prescribed person or class of persons;
        (c) a person holding or using a device prescribed for the purpose of this subsection; or
        (d) a person engaged in a prescribed activity or in prescribed conditions or circumstances.
        Same

        (5) Subsection (1) does not apply in respect of the use of a device to contact ambulance, police or fire department emergency services.
        Same

        (6) Subsections (1) and (2) do not apply if all of the following conditions are met:
        1. The motor vehicle is off the roadway or is lawfully parked on the roadway.
        2. The motor vehicle is not in motion.
        3. The motor vehicle is not impeding traffic.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)

      A misguided bill.
      There should be no law banning phones/TVs.
      Just a reckless driving law. Does it matter why they were driving recklessly? What next, a specific bill to ban putting on makeup? shaving? reading a news paper? eating?
      Getting that specific is needs, wasteful, leave loop holes, and harms any potential valid need to do thjose things.

  • Goooo Unions! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:01PM (#25761807) Journal

    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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dcollins (135727)

      There's nothing in either article mentioning unions even a single time regarding this story. You're a liar and a propagandist.

  • Okay I was wrong.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:02PM (#25761811) Homepage Journal

    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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by geekoid (135745)

      That does make sense. Clearly you ahve no economic and/or financial experience.

      There is no 'The Government' there are a series of agency and people and accountability.

      Your ignorance makes you look foolish.

  • by glgraca (105308) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:07PM (#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).

  • Article Biased... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Atlantis-Rising (857278) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:08PM (#25761889) Homepage

    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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Vellmont (569020)

      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.

    • by superdave80 (1226592) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:37PM (#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... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Atlantis-Rising (857278) on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:04PM (#25762781) Homepage

        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?

        Actually, part of the information in evidence was that, in fact, up until fairly recently PickupPal did make a 7% commission.

        However, I'm not sure that's necessary in this case. PickupPal is still making money off of this service of connecting riders to drivers (which, I'll point out is what a taxicab service does). PickupPal just has a different way of collecting that money now (via advertisements).

        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.

        Not at all. PickupPal is an instrumental entity in this transaction. It acts like a broker. Just because the contract is between two parties doesn't mean PickupPal isn't in the business of arranging public transportation.

        I refer you to section 2(2) of the Public Vehicles Act, which is cited in the Board's decision:

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

  • I Live in Ontario (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DarthVain (724186) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:09PM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by compro01 (777531)

      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.

  • by NastyNate (398542) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:11PM (#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?

  • by arthurpaliden (939626) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:24PM (#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.)
  • 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."

  • by SleptThroughClass (1127287) on Friday November 14, 2008 @01:49PM (#25762567) Journal
    The Ontario Ministry of Transportation, on its HOV lane page, promotes carpooling and links to SmartCommute.ca [smartcommute.ca]. This is an initiative of Metrolinx, an agency of the Government of Ontario. Metrolinx offers services to the "greater Toronto area". So the Ontario government is arranging carpooling across city limits, but forbidding another group from doing so.
  • Not surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:04PM (#25762775)

    "[The transportation board has] established a bunch of draconian rules that any user in Ontario must follow if it uses the service â" including no crossing of municipal boundaries â" 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."

    Regulations ultimately act to benefit the regulated; not the public. The raise barriers to entry and protect incumbents. A Nobel Prize laureate in Economics pointed that out years ago.

    In general, regulated industries can sustain higher prices and have less competition than unregulated ones. That's not o say regulation does not have a place; but to think it results in lower prices to consumers is wrong.

  • by Belial6 (794905) on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:50PM (#25763527)
    I am always suprised at how many people will happily get in a car with someone they don't know just because it has been called a 'carpool' instead of 'hitchiking'. I have a pal who's wife was arguing (well, more a debate) that it was a good thing to go to the carpool sites in our county, and find someone that is going to the same place as you. This is an attractive 98 pound woman. She would never consider hitchiking, but could not grasp that getting into a strangers car alone from a carpool parking lot is no better than doing it from any random freeway on ramp.

    After getting no where with her, I pointed out to him what she had been saying. I have no doubt that they had a big argument about it because she now is adamantly against the idea of using the find a stranger in the parking lot method of carpooling. Some might think that I over stepped a line, but I really don't want to find out that she was found in a ditch raped an murdered. I know if I were a rapist, she would have easily been in the top 1% of target victim group because she is attractive, to small to put up a big fight, and was willing to get into a strangers car.

    Simply put: Carpooling with strangers IS hitchhiking.

    Each person needs to evaluate the risk/benefit of hitchhiking for themselves, but they should not delude themselves into thinking that they are not the same thing just because it now has a PC name and the government encourages it.
  • by CopaceticOpus (965603) on Friday November 14, 2008 @02:59PM (#25763667)

    Apparently driving is like sex in Canada.

    • You can go solo whenever you like.
    • Two consenting adults can go together so long as there's no money changing hands.
    • You're not allowed to just go with a stranger and pay them for their trouble.
    • However, officials will often not watch too closely if you're discreet about it.

    The bus is like a strip club. Everyone gets together for legally sanctioned transportation, but none of the customers get to drive, and it's not as much fun as a real car ride.

  • by Digital_Quartz (75366) on Friday November 14, 2008 @03:05PM (#25763749) Homepage

    TFA is a little one-sided.

    First, the regulations that exist are not there to stop carpooling, they're there to ensure bus and taxi services are safe. This isn't some theoretical problem, either, as a number of people were killed in an unlicensed and uninsured van in southern Ontario a few years back. (Would they have been alive if the service vehicle had been through a safety check, or if the operator of the vehicle was properly licensed? I don't have those details, and I can't find the article I was reading about it this morning). The problem is that the regulations are very broadly defined, and a lot of car pooling falls under them.

    The Ontario government has been actively working to fix the laws for a while now, so they don't apply to car pool services (http://www.cbc.ca/consumer/story/2008/09/02/ot-carpool-080902.html). But, how to write a law which covers a taxi, and doesn't cover car pooling? Tough to get right, but they are working on it.

    Second, the site in question, PickupPal, was being used by a couple of companies in southern Ontario who were selling rides from Ottawa to Toronto, and the reverse direction (a 6 hour drive), putting multiple people into vans. So, essentially, running a bus service. This is a far cry from car pooling, and obviously these companies should fall under the bus regulations. Should the government be fining PickupPal, or fining these unlicensed bus services directly? Hard to say without knowing all the details involved.

    PickupPal, though, called the ruling a victory, so they're obviously happy with it.

HOST SYSTEM NOT RESPONDING, PROBABLY DOWN. DO YOU WANT TO WAIT? (Y/N)

Working...