Why you calling a cab? Uber is here!
By: Dan Laxer – mtltimes.ca
Enterprise Canada refers to Uber as a “disruptor”. Disruptive innovation, as the term would imply, serves to upset the applecart. To wit, if you’ve come up with a new way of selling apples, or even a new kind of cart that might make it easier and more cost-effective for the consumer to obtain apples, while adversely affecting the business of selling apples, or at least the way that apple-sellers had hitherto conducted business, you are a disruptor, and will either revolutionize the apple business, or incur the wrath of traditional apple-sellers. Or both.
Such is Uber, and their everyman offshoot, UberX.
Uber runs afoul of the law in several jurisdictions by not just upsetting applecarts, but by kicking them over, rules-be-damned. Here in Montreal, our tough-talkin’ cowboy mayor threw on a cape in the guise of upholding truth, justice, and the taxi bureau, declaring Uber illegal. Users have been left alone so far. But drivers have been treated like scabs, with taxi-activists ambushing them, threatening them, and in the latest incident, pelting them with eggs.
That’s not fair.
On the other hand, Uber is not fair. But it is a darned good idea with a current and enduring business-model; you can use apps to track your bus routes, to order meals to be delivered directly into your mouth, to find a place to stay for the night, or, in the case of Uber, to get you from point A to point B quickly and easily… and cheaply.
And that has taxi drivers understandably in a tizzy. You’ve got to shell out a stupid amount of money before you can even hit the road as a cabbie. By the time you’ve taken your courses and paid for your taxi licence, insurance, etc., you’ve spent a good $200,000, and you’re going to have to work long and hard to earnthat back.
But a turf war is counter-productive.
Technology has always been a game changer. What must life have been like with the advent of the automatic dishwasher, when countless flesh-and-blood dishwashers lost jobs? Whither the long-suffering telephone operator?
But it’s not just the rise of the machines. It’s economics. Goodness knows I’m no economist, but even I have had to accept similar defeat. I have a Master’s Degree in English. I should be able to tutor at a cost of $60.00 per hour. The problem is that there are university students who need a quick buck charging anywhere from $15.00 to $20.00 an hour.Do the math. You’re a mom whose kid is having trouble stringing words together. Are your going to pay $60.00 per hour for a tutor, or go for the cheaper alternative? And if you go with option B would it then be fair for me to meet the student-tutor at your house and a dozen eggs?
At some point taxi drivers are going to have to make room for Uber. But Uber is going to have to learn to play nice. In the meantime, if anyone on either side wants to learn to speak or write better in English, I’m glad to help. I’m sure we can work something out.