By: Diogo Pinto
On February 24, 2016 the City of Brampton is putting forward a motion to suspend Uber and all other ride sharing company operations until further notice. The motion was put forward by Gurpreet Dhillon, Brampton’s City Councillor for Wards 9 and 10, the agenda can be found here and the item is 14.1.
The motion makes states that, should it be passed, the city would begin reviewing bylaws to make them “fair and competitive” for all parties involved. The process would include input from Taxi companies, Uber, and any other “Transit Network Company”, or TNC, and their consumers. This process, of course, calls for the immediate and indefinite cessation of any “illegal” service and uses very broad terms to define what such a service would be. Uber would be officially barred from operating in Brampton, by a motion that names Uber specifically, and calls for: “… Use [of] any enforcement measure allowed by law to enforce the City’s Mobile Licensing By-law against UBER”.
While not entirely surprised by this motion, I can’t say that I am happy about it. I’ve engaged Gurpreet Dhillon in discussion over this topic, and his reasoning appears to be that Uber is not safe, and there are no extra consumer protections beyond the standard protections that literally almost any other transaction would have. He brought up “Surge Pricing” specifically and provided me with this image.
Surge pricing is thoroughly explained in many other places, but essentially it is a mechanism by which Uber increases the amount of drivers on the roads to meet increasing demand. It is automatic (not controlled by a human), and the app warns you before you order the UberX and even gives you a fare estimate and offers to let you know when it has dropped back down if you’re willing to wait. Suffice it to say that Surge is not a way to rip off consumers but a vehicle by which to make sure everyone has a ride by enticing drivers with higher paycheques. Think of it as overtime pay for your driver.
As far as safety concerns go, Uber does have safety guidelines for the drivers that use its app. The safety guidelines cover everything from driver background checks, car maintenance, to anonymizing communication between drivers and passengers. Even insurance for passengers is taken into account, and now some insurance providers are beginning to offer driver insurance specifically for this new class of service. You can’t go a day as a driver on the road without seeing Taxis pulling illegal and downright dangerous maneuvers for the sake of shaving a few seconds off of their unpaid drive between fares. I personally have been in Taxis where I feared for my safety because of drivers simply breaking laws. I have never been on an Uber ride where I was ever concerned about my safety, and many others share this experience.
None of this even takes into account the human factor. Uber drivers are people, citizens of Brampton, Toronto, Mississauga, and many other places. They currently make ends meet or supplement their income using Uber by providing a service that makes use of the car they already own and the driving experience they already have to help someone else get from point A to point B safely. Uber doesn’t quite replace traditional Taxi services, but traditional Taxis would stand to benefit massively from relaxed legislation and learning from the worldwide experience Uber has in operating what effectively is one of the largest transportation services in the world.
We need more transit options, not less, especially after the loss that we suffered when city council struck down the Hurontario-Main LRT. I agree we need to reform Taxi legislation, but to punish individual citizens for earning an honest day’s pay by providing a valuable service is not only the wrong move for the city, but for all of the citizens that live within it.