An open letter to the BC taxi lobby: WTF are you doing?

Aug 17 2018, 2:39 pm

Submitted by a Daily Hive reader who wishes to remain anonymous. To have your say and speak your mind, email [email protected] and you could have them published.

To British Columbia’s taxi lobby,

WTF are you doing? Seriously.

First, a bit of background. I am a gainfully employed Millennial in the tech industry. I use Uber and Lyft when I travel for work. And I started using Uber when they first launched in Vancouver. So, yes, I’m predisposed to embrace ride-hailing.

But I’m also not alien to the challenges. As an urban core professional in an anti ride-hailing city, I use taxis two to three times per day. And, as a curious individual, I use every opportunity to talk to the taxi drivers. From which I have anecdotally noticed that half of taxi drivers are open to ride-hailing, while the balance cite one principal concern: the exorbitant grey market cost of the license.

Now, leaving aside the obvious retort about the inherent risk of any grey market, as the son of an immigrant and the former in-law of a taxi driver, I will simply say, I understand and sympathize with the losses many families may suffer from the depreciation of the license that may come with a ride-hailing company’s entry. I will also say that I have zero solutions to the problem.

What I have are a few small thoughts to alleviate the current pressure on the system, enough perhaps to allow our elected officials time and space to address what is a far too complicated issue for this rant.

Thought #1: Centralize and fix your hailing system

If you can centralize your lobbying, and you are fighting against a larger, wealthier, international adversary, this is the time to band together and code a universal professional hailing system. I don’t know whose son or sister coded the current apps in the market but they are horrendous. And, please, don’t launch another app when you have one in market (cough, Yellow Cab, cough). There is also no reason to review your rides – when public opinion is against you, and the average cab isn’t a pleasant experience, let’s just focus on booking.

Whatever the reasons may be, remember your competition’s main pitch is convenience and ease of hailing. All you have to do to compete is launch one app that works. Maintain and update said app. And make sure the drivers respect the booking system.

Thought #2: Open all zones in demand windows

It’s 11 pm on a Friday. You have had a few drinks. The SkyTrain doesn’t run anywhere near your home. You want to be responsible and hail a cab. So, you pull out your app, call for a cab, and wait. One hour, and three cabs that took the fare but never showed up last, later, you start standing in the middle of the street to hail a cab. Noticing a dozen other people doing the same, you start walking up one way streets to catch a cab “upstream.” Soon you realize you’ve walked across a bridge, and there are no cabs to be found, and you decide to anger-walk the rest of the 5 kms back home.

This is an all too common situation in our city. It’s wrong. (And that’s a responsible way of dealing with the problem.) And from what taxi drivers tell me it’s also solvable: for demand windows, Thursday-Sunday & holidays, from 9 pm to 3 am, all pickup zones could be removed. Any cab, from any municipality/zone can pick up anyone from anywhere. Richmond Cab: come on downtown! North Shore Cab: sure! Coquitlam: yessir! Since the patrons are likely heading back in those directions, why the hell not?

Thought #3: Institute professional standards

Taxis need to conform to a minimum quality of their vehicles. Some taxis are brand new and their owners take great care to maintain their vehicles. Others, it constantly surprises me that I don’t fall into a bottomless hole in the seat. (I’m not when going to ask for water or a newspaper.) On a hot day, maybe throw a bit of AC on. Perhaps swing around between rides to see if a former patron has left a half uneaten sandwich on the floor. And between shifts, give the car a quick clean, flag any holes or stains etc for fixing on the next down day, and snap a few pics for dispatch to let them know you’ve done that minimum inspection.

So, again, I ask to the cab lobby: WTF are you doing?

Instead of fighting against an international behemoth that has taken down cities larger than this one, perhaps work on making sure the public actually wants you. After all, a lobbyist won’t have much to do if the public tide swings violently in the opposite direction.

A better use of your time is to figure out other ways to lobby to relieve the pressure. Ingratiate the public with your companies and drivers. Institute minimum standards. Spend money on your tech. And, please, open all zones during peak hours. Institute demand pricing or some other legal means to cover peak hours, but relieve the pressure before it blows you completely out of the province.

(Guys, it ain’t hard, perhaps download a ride hailing app, and check out what you’re doing wrong!)


A patron, and a citizen of the province

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