Admit it. There isn’t a person living in Vancouver that isn’t a little excited about the thought of Uber or Lyft.
When politicians promised they’d bring ride-hailing services to Vancouver last year, if elected, we all became drunk with the distant reality. It’s no secret the Vancouver’s taxi industry isn’t winning customer service awards anytime soon.
It doesn’t help that Vancouver barely has half the number of taxis, per capita, as Montreal or Halifax. Let that sink in. Halifax, for Christ’s sakes. For years, passengers have been suffering under long wait times and high fare rates. A suffering they know they could be rescued from as they enviously listened with indefatigable interest from others about how easy and cheap it is to get a ride with Uber. It seemed like the modern age would never come to the west coast.
Now that ride-sharing apps like Uber or Lyft are one step closer to becoming a fact of life here in Metro Vancouver, are we celebrating the second coming of Uber with too much cheer? Uber promises convenience and affordability in a user-friendly app. However, an endless bout of scandals shows there may be more at stake than growing pains within this organization. Now that Uber’s one step closer to landing in YVR, will it all work out?
Not too long ago #DeleteUber was trending on social after it appeared Uber was taking advantage of the New York taxi uni strike to offer surge pricing while taxis were protesting Trump’s refugee ban, Uber has bounced from one disturbing scandal to another. Last February, a former female engineer wrote a tell-all blog post that showed a bro-dominated culture more concerned with office politics than sexual harassment complaints.
A slew of c-suite executives left including the head of engineering’s resignation and the chief marketing officer’s departure. Later that same month, a leaked dash cam showed the CEO arguing with an Uber Black driver, coming off arrogant and dismissive about the driver’s concerns about living wages. The change in pricing consequently led Uber Black drivers to lose out on fare money, legitimate claims the CEO blamed on the driver for not taking responsibility for his actions.
Most recently, taxi drivers took their own lives after New York City politicians continued to flood the streets and saturate the market. The drivers reportedly killed themselves due to mounting financial pressure.
When Uber, if Uber comes, it comes carrying this history.
With all that being said, Uber could still be a good thing for Vancouver’s taxi industry. If we look at how Alberta handled the introduction of Uber into the local economy, the province careful enacting rules for ride-hailing drivers. Similarly, how the local government talked about bringing ride-sharing services there is the same level of caution when it comes to opening the doors to competitors.
The balance must be struck, and this will be the taxi industry’s last big chance to innovate and meet expectations. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.