Does Uber spell Utter disaster for the Taxi industry?

The definition of the word Uber means “super, extreme, or outstanding.” Given the recent events and the way the Uber Ride Sharing system has bogarted onto the market, these terms could describe it both in a negative or positive light depending on who you are. If you are an Ex-Pat, recent Immigrant, or just an average Joe who for one reason or another rely on your income as a Taxi Driver, it definitely means the former – a shinier, seemingly more efficient, and highly cost effective doppelganger has emerged. Essentially, Your twin brother is stronger, faster, and a lot more attractive, whereas you are less approachable from a glance, need to ask permission for everything, and take more time and energy for to get the same thing done. Good luck. Though Taxi drivers have not gone extinct yet… yet.
Though Uber is definitely accessing the same market and as a result taking business and the ridership from the Taxi market, is there room for both? Some argue yes, although the transition has yet to be smooth and seems to more bloody and tumultuous than peaceful and diplomatic. Well…maybe no blood, but you get the point. Let’s look at each corner in brief, touching on key points.

Protest on opening day of Uber Hearing #TOPoli - courtesy citynews.ca
Protest on opening day of Uber Hearing #TOPoli
– courtesy citynews.ca

From Uber’ side of things, it provides an accessible, convenient, and effective source of extra income for anybody with a personable personality and motivation to hustle on their down time. It has reached to a point where it has actually become full time employment for some – some even leaving there job as Taxi Drivers (I have seen/experienced). Let’s talk numbers. A driver has to pay a 20% cut to the Uber Corporation off every fare plus a dollar safe ride fee. For every hundred dollars, say taking about 7 fares (at $15/fare), a Driver would then pay about $27. Netting $73. But depending on the rate of work and the hours worked, this can add up quickly. To the tune of me hearing stories of drivers netting over $600-700 per weekend (Thurs – Sun.) Needless to say, Netflixing (is that a word – ha) isn’t the best way to spend your free time anymore. Also, note that Uber does insure the driver up to approximately $5million when with a passenger, so that aspect has been noted to an extent. Mind you, this isn’t the first City (nor will it be the last) who has raised staunch opposition to Uber forcing their way in and peeling away at the Drivers Market.

Uber has support... from it's Drivers and the People
Uber has support… from its Drivers and the People

Now in a City Taxi Drivers corner, where do we begin with the fees? Although varying per company, most drivers working for a Dispatcher (cab company) must pay between $500-600/month to access the Dispatch service (which I’ve heard, and it sounds like another language at times, when over the radio at least). Then there are fees that must be paid to the Taxi Company if Debit or Credit transactions occur, varying in percentage, but usually under 8% or so per transaction. There are also Mandated Fees and changes required by the city, such as servicing every 6 months (which is definitely a good thing, but can be costly if it must be incurred solely by driver) as well as any changes. Changes, such as a meter change a Driver spoke to me about, cost them over $1k, but then was inefficient and scrapped as a mandatory change – after already being done. Never mind the licensing fees which are not affordable on a Driver’s salary. Drivers have been given access to be listed on the Uber network, but at the cost of 20% from their fare. I have met a Taxi Driver who, due to this, has gone Independent and uses no Dispatch, but relies on road side pick-ups… In a city that is large yes, but also ubiquitous with cabs – often to one another’s detriment.

The Choice

Needless to say, it seems the scale is not in a Taxi Drivers favor – when we look at the mandated costs, that I have surely not fully covered nor the fact the City imposes costly regulations on them. Granted, many of these regulations are for Driver and passenger security but others are not and seem like the City potentially gouging a ubiquitous source of revenue. I understand Taxi Drivers can often be sour, fare hungry and dismissive, leaving people in wait a search for the largest fare, but I can empathize to an extent and see where it comes from. I feel that Uber will not go away and to be honest – as a recent Graduate who isn’t rolling in it (yet… ha) I have used Uber several times. I don’t feel banning Uber is the solution, but maybe regulating them and imposing some mandates to level the playing field? Understanding a Cab drivers plight by the numbers and their now gouged market? OR should we just say if the Consumer / Citizens are happy then this is how it shall be.
Who knows where the dice will fall… it is in the Courts hand and let us hope man does not err here… For There Will Be Blood… well maybe not, but that was a good movie and that title seems to work in dramatic settings ha.

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