Following the battle between Uber and the world’s taxi companies, I keep hearing one thing that’s starting to bug me. It’s the notion that while cab companies in each city have loads of competition, Uber doesn’t. While in a sense that’s true, it’s also kind of a silly argument. To illustrate this point, let’s use Waterloo Region as an example, because I live there.
The Waterloo Region Taxi Alliance consists of five companies, according to it’s website. Of these, I have utilized the services of four. And other than the astoundingly high number of dinks that drive for United, I can think of literally no difference between any of them. The customer service is the same. The booking process is the same right down to the questionably Voiceover accessible apps, where applicable. The response times are the same. The odds that I’m going to have a problem with a driver for some reason are the same unless I get stuck with United. The prices are the same basically to the cent. Short of being able to look at a logo which I can’t due to my being your friendly neighbourhood blind dude, how am I supposed to tell a Waterloo from a City from a Golden Triangle? Saying that these companies are in honest to goodness competition with each other is like saying that Bell vs. Rogers is all the choice we need for television, internet and telephone service in this country.
The only reason that the Uber doesn’t have any competition in their space argument holds any water at all is because nobody is quite doing what Uber does. Quite simply, you can’t have competition until somebody starts doing what you do as well as or better than you do it on an essentially even playing field. In that sense, I do have some sympathy for the taxi people. Their hands are tied because they’re bound by outdated laws to do things a certain way. Hopefully when these things are finally revisited, taxi regulations are loosened so they can provide some price flexibility rather than turning the screws on Uber to the point that it becomes just like everything else. But until then, getting angry at Uber because Lift or whoever isn’t competing with it in City X is akin to getting mad at the first person to open an app store because the iPhone hadn’t been invented yet.
We have a real opportunity here. Like any good idea, Uber is changing the way things are done. And regardless of whether or not the taxi industry wants to hear this, things are in need of a change. The idea isn’t to run you all out of business. I don’t think anybody truly wants that. But we do want some real choice, and that’s what Uber is. So far, it’s the only one. If you all were smart, you’d take the energy you’re putting into your stupid fuck you, Uber campaign and put it into lobbying for the ability to be the competition Uber doesn’t have but is going to need. When everyone can innovate, everybody wins. That’s what true competition is all about.