Last week, USC vice-president Jamie Cleary spoke about the importance of Uber in the lives of Western students at a public participation meeting about the ride sharing app. The statements were welcome news as students value the service.
The city of London (Ontario, Canada) is currently in the process of figuring out how to properly regulate Uber. City staff proposed outlawing surge pricing and requiring cameras, which can cost thousands of dollars, in all cars. City politicians correctly vetoed these two regulations.
The convenience of requesting a car from your phone, knowing when it will arrive, estimating how much your trip will cost and seeing a review of your driver are all features to highlight about Uber. They have placed a clear emphasis on customer satisfaction and that’s important.
Over the past few years, taxis just haven’t been able to keep up. It seems their fares are more expensive and the rider experience isn’t as strong. Uber seems to be the future while taxis are lagging behind.
This isn’t exclusively the fault of taxi companies, however. Municipalities across Ontario, including London, have placed a number of regulatory burdens on cabbies. Requiring them to pay unreasonably high fees for licensing doesn’t seem like it helps the common good — it seems like cities see taxis as cash cows.
Reducing the level of regulations for taxis would be a welcome change for Western students. Allowing these companies to compete on the same level of Uber might encourage more competition; students and other riders would likely be the beneficiaries.
It’s also important to remember that many cab drivers are doing this to get by. Many taxi drivers have professional credentials that may not transfer to Canada, making taxi driving one of the only accessible jobs. While there are many jobs that have been jettisoned due to increased innovation — we no longer have milkmen making deliveries every morning — the taxi industry doesn’t have to collapse.
Many Uber drivers have similar life experiences to taxi drivers. It’s not unusual to be picked up by a fellow student who is trying to earn money for tuition and books. Creating an equal playing field for Uber and taxi drivers should be the priority for the city.
We hope that the city will approve the new bylaw allowing Uber to operate in London. Uber may be the way of the future but cabs can fight their way to relevance again.