While the City and Province have so far kept Vancouver Uber-less, the ride-sharing service based in San Francisco is now in over 200 cities and clearly intends to expand into this territory.
Your attitude towards Uber and its ilk I suspect depends on your self-interest. If you hold one of the licences to operate – a taxi ‘plate’- you have something worth up to a million dollars, but it’s near valueless if anyone can enter the market. If you’re one of the drivers who only earns a few hundred a night, it’s a definite threat – and an unfair one at that. But from a customer’s point of view, the competition is terrific because the product is so much better.
How much better?
Here’s an example from last night, where my partner used Uber in San Francisco after he had downloaded the app onto his smartphone for the first time. He put in the address where he was heading, the app told him the estimated time and price, and after a confirming click, a car was there in minutes, with the licence and driver’s name already identified.
No money exchanged hands. Instead, after the trip, he received the transaction notice via email:
A taxi equivalent would have been about $15, plus tip, and there would have been no convenient record in his inbox. No wonder that After Uber, San Francisco Has Seen a 65-Percent Decline in Cab Use
Lessons for Vancouver?
While the regulatory playing field should be fair, the end of taxi dominance is probable – even if it isn’t brought to an end by Uber. There are too many other ways for it to happen, and too much obvious benefit for both parties on either side of the transaction.
The question is: Why can’t taxis provide a similar-quality service if they want to survive?
Yellow Cab is apparently taking Uber to court in Vancouver.
While researching another matter on BC Online’s Court Services, I discovered that there are three actions in play that were filed Nov 4, 2014. All are Yellow Cab vs. Uber BV (head office), Uber Canada Ltd., and Uber Technologies.
I’m too cheap to pony up $6 each to get a look at the filings, but perhaps some crackerjack journo can get their boss to spring for it. My wild-ass speculative guess is that the filings deal with the common problems that cities and established cab companies have with the emergence of Uber and its brethren.
” She added that the drivers don’t hold city-issued licenses, haven’t taken city-mandated training, haven’t put their cars through a city-mandated mechanical inspection, may lack safety equipment like cameras and may be inadequately insured.” City of Toronto, Tracey Cook, executive director of Municipal Licensing and Standards.
In my opinion, technology and society march onward, and fighting a rear-guard action is an expensive and losing proposition.
To understand the unique problem of the taxi industry here, see Ben Proctor’s SFU Masters Thesis. His analysis of the problem is spot on, though I have my doubts about the possibility of his proposed solution getting adopted any time soon.
Stagnant industries will try to play catch up, but it is near impossible for them because old habits die hard and they are stuck into a certain way of thinking.
A more sad reality is that these cab companies have zero expertise in building complex software like Uber. Getting it to their level of polish takes extremely good talent hunting, product management and software experience. The cab companies do not have any of this, and they are up against a well funded giant that does.
It’s safe to say they don’t have a chance in hell of surviving, unless they recognize the crisis they’re facing, become more vertically integrated and unite under an app with a similarly good experience such as Hailo.
So is there an analogy with transit service?
Bring on the jitneys!
Taxi companies can’t compete because they must cover the opportunity costs of sinking a million dollars into a license.
Thomas, actually Vancouver taxi licenses are right around the $1 million mark, with Suburban taxi licenses in the GVRD around $500K. Skim through Benn Proctor’s thesis for more info on these outrageously high license fees: http://summit.sfu.ca/system/files/iritems1/14007/etd8329_BProctor.pdf
Vancouver has some of the highest taxi license fees in the world – and Vancouver is the ONLY city on earth that Uber has pulled out of after entering. That alone shows the strength of the local taxi cartel.
The media and taxi co’s focus on the price is a shame. All the other app features would be very welcome, and would save the oligopoly some PR flack, in order of importance to the user experience:
1. automatic payment, tip and emailed receipt
2. automatic pick-up location identification, and tracking of the arriving taxi
3. driver AND PASSENGER rating (why wouldn’t taxicos want the latter? or indeed both?)
Go ahead and charge your $16 instead of $9 but give us the rest.
Or maybe you know your days are numbered, so litigation has a better ROI than R&D…?