Ridesharing here to stay

Big taxi companies may be winning key battles across Canada, but Uber is still positioned to win the war.

(This column originally appeared in the Toronto Sun)

By: Candice Malcolm

Taxi companies are pulling out all the stops in their war against Uber and other peer-to-peer ride-sharing apps. And the taxi lobby seems to be making some progress in protecting its special status and making life difficult for Uber.

For instance, municipal busybodies recently raided Uber offices in Montreal, police across Ontario have begun harassing Uber drivers, and the taxi lobby has coordinated protests to block traffic in downtown Toronto. Meanwhile, the Uber app is still basically banned in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and all of Manitoba.

Big taxi companies may be winning key battles across Canada, but Uber is still positioned to win the war.

The reason is simple. People love Uber.

It is clear to anyone who has used ride-sharing services why these apps will win: they provide a better service. As a heavy user of ride-sharing—so much so that I live in a zero car household—here are ten reasons why ride-sharing apps are better than traditional taxis.

Choice. In cities like San Francisco, customers can choose between several competing apps: Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, Wingz or variations like ZipCar or Getaround. Once you decide on a service, you can choose between a black car, SUV, or someone driving his or her personal car. You can then choose to share your ride with another passenger on a similar route to essentially split the fair.

Price. By ordering a split ride, through services such as LyftLine or UberPool, you can get the cheapest fare possible. UberPool and LyftLine frequently offer rides that cost less than the same trip using city buses or subways.

Convenience. Unlike public transit, which often requires travel in the wrong direction or walking several blocks to find a station, ride-sharing apps use geo-location technology to match the customer with a driver. Passengers are picked up at their door and taken to their exact location.

Productive time. Unlike driving yourself or hopping on a crowded bus or subway, you can actually use your commute to be productive. In an Uber car, you can make phone calls, respond to emails, and do work during your commute.

Better service. Ever gotten into a dirty taxi, only to have an angry driver shouting into his cell phone while zigzagging in and out of traffic? That simply doesn’t happen with ride-sharing.

The drivers rely on good reviews to get more rides; if they get too many bad reviews, they get kicked off the app. When I get into a ride-sharing car, I’m usually offered water, snacks, my choice of music, and often a plug to charge my phone. The peer review system makes drivers more personally accountable and encourages a more enjoyable ride.

Accountability. Have you ever ordered a taxi that never showed up? When an order is placed on a ride-sharing app, you get the driver’s personal phone number. You also get his or her name, and a description of the car. You can see where your driver is on a map along with an estimated time of arrival. If the driver cancels the ride, you are notified instantly.

Lost items. I once forgot a bag in a car, and ten minutes later, the driver delivered the bag back to me. Imagine that kind of service with a traditional taxi.

Simple payments. No cash? No problem. Ride-sharing apps take your credit card information before you request your ride, and bill you automatically when you leave the car. No fumbling for your wallet or waiting for a slow debit machine.

Happy drivers. Lyft drivers are some of the most relaxed people I’ve ever met. They love what they do. Maybe it’s because they choose their own routes and make their own hours. Many drivers are twenty-somethings trying to supplement another job, but I also often meet people who have quit other careers to drive full time with Lyft. Why? They say they love working for themselves.

Environment. Uber estimates that for every UberPool car in use, eight private cars are taken off the road. That means less congestion and cleaner air in our cities.

Taxi drivers can throw temper-tantrums, pay fancy lobbyists to persuade politicians, and block city streets all they want. People have found a better product, and the change in consumer behaviour has already happened.

It’s only a matter of time before these tech startups defeat the powerful taxi lobby and its long-established stranglehold over the transportation space.

People love ride-sharing. And that’s why traditional taxi companies are going the way of the horse and carriage.