We’ve all been there. It’s pouring rain on a dark November evening during rush hour and you can’t get a cab because everyone else is trying to get one at the same time. Or, you are running late for a meeting and call a cab, which never arrives. You wait and wait, no call, no explanation, and now you’ve missed your meeting.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have an alternative to the standard taxi service?
One of Surrey’s mayoral candidates doesn’t seem to think so.
Doug McCallum has recently made a campaign pledge to ban Uber from operating in Surrey.
Uber is a popular upstart ride-sharing service that was founded in San Francisco and has since expanded to 45 countries. It’s slowly cracking into the Canadian market, with operations in Toronto, Montreal and Halifax.
The way it works is wonderfully simple. You download an app on your phone and set up an account. When you want a ride, you request one through the app, which finds your pick-up location via the GPS on your phone. This is a handy feature when you aren’t sure of the exact address.
The Uber app lets you select what kind of vehicle you want to be picked up in, and no need to whip out your cash or credit card at the end of the ride – that information is already programmed into your app account. The app allows you to track the vehicle as it’s en route to you and connect directly with the driver by phone – so no more wondering where your ride is.
Drivers are essentially drivers for hire who are pre-screened by Uber, which sets the fares and receives a commission from the driver.
Now why would McCallum oppose something that offers people more choices?
It could have something to do with McCallum being endorsed by five Surrey taxi companies who employ a great deal of people (i.e. voters) in Surrey.
These taxi companies are not happy about Uber and have put forward a myriad of reasons why it must not be allowed, such as concerns over passenger safety.
But this is really about competition – taxi companies don’t want a new competitor.
Uber tried to get started in Vancouver, but was essentially blocked by the province through hefty conditions.
It’s disappointing to see politicians protecting entrenched corporate interests and not the interests of citizens.
More consumer choice should be encouraged, not chased away.