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?