Taxis are great and the drivers are professional. Taxis and ride sharing services are different but similar in many ways. Because they are similar, some common rules should be put in place.
The intent of this post is to not talk about taxis. Below are my comments on Uber:
In Edmonton, it sometimes seems as though ‘Uber’ is a cuss word. Why? Uber is filling a hole in a broken system.
For my work, I need to drive. I often have meetings throughout the day, and these meetings occur at various locations in Edmonton. I am awarded a modest car allowance because, quite frankly, my time is too important for me to take multiple buses during working hours.
I would find it irresponsible for me to take the bus, given the extra idle time it would take. Taking longer en route would prevent me from being more productive during work hours. My employer’s expenses and wellbeing factor into my considerations.
Uber, the mobile ridesharing application, allows individual car owners to offer rides to those who want them, competing with the taxicab industry. In Edmonton, Uber was the first rideshare company to get the ball rolling with this emerging technology.
Uber is back and running now, after having been shut down in Edmonton, in March, because the provincial government did not have the proper insurance scheme in place by the generous deadline set by the City of Edmonton. Uber was the victim in this scenario, and the decision caused hundreds of Uber drivers to lose their jobs.
During this gap, miraculously, TappCar moved in. TappCar had an insurance policy that allowed it to operate. Pascal Ryffel, government insider and TappCar spokesman, capitalized on the hole in the market. TappCar’s move was so quick, it almost felt orchestrated. Mr. Ryffel used to work for Brian Mason, Minister of Transportation… hmm. I do not have the journalistic resources to dig further into this, but it smells fishy. And that is why I remain loyal to Uber.
I would submit that I have an above-average understanding of the taxi industry in Edmonton, as I used to serve on the Vehicle For Hire Commission (“Taxicab Commission”) via appointment of City Council. At the time I served, the taxi industry was rife with lobbying and unrealistic demands. Finally, in a bizarre move reeking of unaccountability, City Council removed all public members from this industry-regulating commission, and transparency went through the window. Along with the other commoners, I was off the Commission.
Now that Uber is allowed to operate again, the City imposes an innocent six-cents-per-ride tariff on all transactions. Knowing what I know about the industry, I predict that that amount will be increased to 99 cents within a year. The City fears anything that competes with public transit.
I support Uber because it provides competition (by the same argument, I can’t rule out TappCar). Of course, I feel sorry for individual taxi drivers who had the status quo ripped out from under their feet, but that is no reason to keep a powerful app-based technology locked away. With Uber, the consumers win. Uber is friendlier, more accountable (via the embedded GPS technology and secure credit card payments), and almost always quicker at pick-ups, and you can exit the vehicle immediately upon reaching your destination.
Recently I discovered that for trips in and out of downtown during the day, Uber is often the best choice. Simply put, you save on the high parking fees that you would incur if you drove. I also appreciate avoiding the dance of wondering how long my meetings will be, and guessing how much to pay for parking. I either overpay or underpay. When I underpay, all I can concentrate on is the fact that I might get a ticket. It is very distracting; a personal quirk, I suppose.
I also predict that parking prices downtown will sharply increase soon, too. The City just can’t help themselves. Who knows; if that happens, perhaps even traditional taxis will be competitive again.
The Transit Option:
Buses used to be good, but the routes are now designed so that one often gets directed to the LRT. We no longer have buses going in straight lines. Adding transfers adds needless hassle. There should be more buses running in straight lines up and down the major roads of Edmonton. It is time to pump the breaks on the fixed-route LRT and develop a respectable, dependable, and adaptable bus network.
More buses means less wait times and it is the wait times that kills people’s desire to take transit. How can we afford more buses? By spending hundreds of millions of dollars less on the LRT network. The cost of expropriating land and the LRT signal system alone is astronomical. Our priorities are out of touch with demand, and that is one reason why a company like Uber has entered the market and dominated a significant segment of the transportation pie.
North Side Journal
Candidate for Ward 3 “Jon D for Ward 3!”