Why the taxi industry in Vancouver is putting up a fight. And why they don’t deserve to win it.
Metro Vancouverites experienced the luxury of ride-hailing companies for only a week and already nine taxi companies are suing both Uber and Lyft with the intent to either have them thrown off the road, effectively seizing business operations, or to take away their licences.
Personally, I have never seen a group of taxi companies move so fast but this, of course, speaks to their true motives and shows where their interests lie.
While they focus on trying to prevent their monopoly from slipping out of their hands, I will continue to look for a taxi willing to take me back to Maple Ridge from downtown Vancouver on a Saturday night.
From the taxi industries perspective, legal action was necessary considering their monopoly has been directly threatened by raid-hailing companies that offer better accessibility and are more compatible with today’s smartphone practices.
Although I agree the playing field should be balanced in regard to licence caps and operating areas, the involvement of the courts seems unnecessary as this concern should fall to the province’s Passenger Transportation Board to hash out between the taxi industry and ride-hailing companies.
Taxi companies administering legal action towards Uber and Lyft is a sad attempt at protecting their crumbling monopoly and is not a strong strategic move for the long term.
Thankfully, the provincial government has finally acknowledged public demand and gave the green light to ride-hailing companies seeking licences to operate in the region.
This was a crucial move needed to spark change in a complacent taxi industry, which has experienced consistent complaints including driving infractions, refusing services, taking indirect routes to increase fare charges, long wait times, and poor courtesy such as rude remarks.
In turn, ride-hailing companies limit these complaints by giving both customers and drivers the ability to rate each other through the company’s smartphone application. This creates the incentive for both drivers and customers to be on their best behaviour, a win-win situation for all parties involved.
After a night out in Vancouver’s entertainment district, I too have been refused service to Maple Ridge – as it was deemed “too far.” This is a frustrating, but unfortunately not uncommon occurrence as this is an industry wide problem resulting, however, in few industry solutions.
With the SkyTrain running no later than 1:30 in the morning and taxi drivers refusing service, ride-hailing is a logical solution to filling this gap and sparking change to a taxi industry – which has been anything but innovative.
The largest fault within the taxi industry has been their unwillingness to adapt to the changing ride-hailing industry.
Customers want up-to-date vehicles, shorter wait times, and cheaper fares.
Ride-hailing solves these issues and offers a template as to what taxis need to compete with in an evolving marketplace.
Instead, taxi companies continue to resist change and irritate customers, confirming they do not deserve to operate as a monopolistic entity any longer.
I strongly suggest they adapt their perspective and use the situation as a learning experience or they will continue to lose sales in a competitive market, where customers have increased choice about who they go to for a ride.
Let’s widen the road of competition (see what I did there?), establish a level-playing field that shakes up the existing structure to one that is competitive but fair for all parties, and establish a culture that focuses more on customer satisfaction.
The province has a special role to play in all of the above.
Firstly, they need to continue to open up the market for competitive forces to duke it out.
Secondly, they should implement policies that result in equal licensing practices but reduce barriers to obtaining a taxi licence, which has resulted in inflammatory fares that ultimately fall on the customer.
Moreover, they should implement a fee on ride-hailing operators to subsidize the cost for taxi drivers running wheelchair-accessible vehicles so those customers continue to get the service they need.
Achieving the two claims above is essential to increasing customer satisfaction as it incentivizes both ride-hailing and taxi companies to provide quality services, therefore improving relationships between the customer and the company.
And that’s why those nine taxi companies suing Lyft and Uber need to look in the mirror and re-think their strategy.
The hope of holding on to their monopoly is gone for the better.
As soon as ride-hailing offers services to the distant land of Maple Ridge, you can bet I’ll be the first one sitting in the back seat of a luxury sedan being operated by a Lyft or Uber driver.
William Pukila, Maple Ridge