Uber not the answer to Winnipeg’s transport woes

By Scott Price

Ride-sharing service Uber wants into the Winnipeg taxi market. Looking past the marketing facade, Uber isn’t innovative or inevitable. Uber is in fact deregulation of the taxi industry, modernized using smart phone applications and an aggressive expansion campaign.xx-17-wpg-snowy-bjones-0.jpg.size.xxlarge.promo

Studies of the deregulation of the taxi industry in other jurisdictions find a decline in efficiency, productivity, overall service and driver income. Current taxi drivers are unionized and still struggle with long hours and sufficient income.

Recently, Duffy’s Taxi and Unicity Taxi formed the Winnipeg Taxi Alliance to fight Uber’s potential incursion into the Winnipeg market. Uber’s application to operate in Winnipeg is currently before the provincial Taxicab Board.

The actual numbers of what Uber drivers are paid is hard to come by, but there have been investigations. Justin Singer, writing in Valleywag (part of Gawker) finds that an Uber driver in New York City “grosses about as much in his average hour as a yellow cab grosses in his worst hour.” This is a far cry from $90,000 annual earnings touted by Uber.

Uber claims it is not an employer, saying it simply provides contractors with customers willing to pay for a service. Uber takes this concept so far as to claim that Uber drivers are “entrepreneurs” who are working for themselves and thus beyond the control of a traditional boss. Uber drivers are supervised by their customers.

The Uber app allows customers to rate Uber drivers on their experience. If a driver’s rating falls below a certain amount, the driver can be “deactivated,” which is Uber-speak for being fired. They lose access to the Uber app, and thus their job and any future income. There is no recourse for drivers.

Uber drivers risk losing their jobs for not following cancellation rates and acceptance rates set by the company. This means Uber, not the driver, regulates how much a driver works and what kind of fares they take, and forbids tipping drivers.

By regulating work practices, discipline and dismissal of all Uber drivers, Uber is creating a precarious work environment veiled in language touting entrepreneurship.

One of the key concerns of Uber is the inability of the service to accommodate persons with physical disabilities or mobility issues.

There are several suits against Uber for discriminating against the visually impaired and wheelchair-using passengers. Uber’s position is that it’s a technology company, not a transport company, so it does not have to abide by laws that would set how they would have to accommodate these passengers.

In one case from California, an Uber driver locked a women’s guide dog in the trunk.

Uber has launched services that would accommodate both the seeing impaired and wheelchair users. Many activists point out that providing these separate services does not solve the problem, as Uber is legally required to provide services to both groups in its main fleet like other transport services.

Uber erodes or perpetuates car culture in cities, exacerbating GHG emissions and pollution. Brian Fung in the Washington Post explains that Uber’s success in a particular city is directly proportional to how much infrastructure is geared towards cars.

Cities that have fewer transportation options, less walkability, and greater car dependency tend to take to Uber because the transportation culture and publicly-funded road system are already there for Uber.

It is no secret that Winnipeg has a strong car culture. The majority of the infrastructure is not built to accommodate safe and convenient cyclist or pedestrian traffic. Winnipeg Transit has the lowest number of buses per capita of cities a similar size, and delays with rapid transit development mean long travel times by bus.

Uber puts more cars on the road for those who can afford to take this service. Simply shifting the burden of the driving does not change Winnipeg’s transport problems and exacerbates car dependency.

The solution is better public transit and infrastructure that promotes walking and cycling – less car dependent cities over all. Transport and taxi workers deserve good jobs with benefits and safe working conditions.

More on Uber from RankandFile.ca:
Uber must die
UberXploited: Behind the Toronto taxi wars
How to avoid getting “Ubered:” inside the Ottawa taxi lockout

For additional studies on taxi deregulation, see:
The Impacts of Taxicab Deregulation in the USA
Taxi Industry Regulation, Deregulation and Reregulation: the Paradox of Market Failure
Analysis of Taxicab Deregulation and Reregulation

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6 thoughts on “Uber not the answer to Winnipeg’s transport woes

  1. Maybe you have ever used uber or talked to an uber driver. From the shortcoming in this article I’m assuming that you are a taxi driver.
    1. They make less probably because many have other jobs and this isn’t full time.
    2. They WANT to make extra money on the side and are ok with this.
    3. Ever heard of an outlier? Many bad experiences with cabs as well. Terrible argument about California.
    4. All my friends who are uber drivers, and all who use it thrive off being rated, therefore do a great job to continue making extra income.
    5. There are other survives for impaired. Just as not all taxis are van taxied with wheelchair service. The onus is not on uber to manage that, so any step taken by them in that direction can be seen as purely Good Samaritan.
    6. Car culture? Ghg? Pfffft give me a fucking break. That same argument can be applied to cabs. What an egotistical view.
    7. The active transport argument is negligible in this context. Has nothing to do with what you are arguing.
    8. Overall a terrible article. As someone who advocates having a strong taxi market, and actually thinks Winnipeg cabs are decent, I’m embarrassed that this is the effort put forth in trying to dismantle a company that embraces technology and frankly a more interactive experience.

    1. What a joke of a reply to a decent article. Right off the bat he assumes the author is a cab driver. Always a smart move, dummy.

      Marc simply refuses to address the wider transit problems raised in this article, so he can misrepresent the article as just being about traditional cabs vs Uber. He doesn’t even respond to the author’s key points about Winnipeg’s weak public bus service, and then dismisses “active transit” (cycling, walking) out-of-hand as irrelevant providing no reason why: just his own assertion that it is irrelevant. The whole bloody article is about Uber’s arrival in Winnipeg and whether or not it will help a city with a weak public transit and active transit infrastructure. He has the balls to call the author egotistical while thinking he can pick and choose what he wants to talk about: his love for Uber.

      And in addition to ignoring and dismissing the entire context in which the article is written, Marc then says anecdotes are outliers (point 3) but then makes three arguments based entirely on anecdotes of his own (points 1, 2, 4)

      Read the article next time and grapple with what has been forward. How’s that for an interactive experience, jack-ass?

      If anyone cares, this is the typical bullshit you get from the Uber sycophants.

  2. This article perpetuates a fantasy that UBER treats (non-owner) drivers less fairly and provide less labour rights than Winnipeg’s 2 major taxi dispatch service shareholders. A cabbie under the current provincial NDP regulatory framework would choose an UBER arrangement 10 times out of 10. And as an aside, specific classes of taxi customers are not about to take public or active transportation ever ie infirm/medical/welfare charge account trips. Therefore they require solutions to the current service issues.

  3. Whoa whoa whoa Doug, your liberal use of name calling sure has driven your point home and discredited Mark.
    This post is just a union blog shilling for a union position being threatened by a better nonunion alternative. To take anything said as more than just that is simply foolish

  4. The Uber drivers I know are not making money. In Canada , there is other one city that Uber operates legally with insurance. This is how Uber awesome movie eyes. They put all the risks on its drivers. If you want to drive people for profit, then follow the law. Just because a person is an artist, a musician, a student or is unemployed does not give each them the liberty to engage in such activities that places their customers and the general real public at risk. Alberta has adequate it very clear, and that if a person engages in such activities, those persons must have proper insurance a verified crimminal record, including fingerprints, vehicle inspection and a class 4 license. Uber first day these regulations to be unworkable. You see, some people think that cab drivers don’t want competition, but the truth is, it’s about unfair or illegally competition.

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