(First in a series outlining taxi and other transit services)
To Uber or not to Uber? That is the question. Does North Vancouver need new ride share schemes like Uber and Lyft? Apparently soon we are going to find out. TransLink Minister Peter Fassbender has said he’s reviewing the taxi system in the province to find a way for Uber and traditional taxis to coexist, but has offered no deadline on when his government might make a decision, pro or con. Meanwhile, Lonsdale Life has started its own investigation of the taxi service on the North Shore.
Uber is actively soliciting drivers to sign up for positions they claim will be available soon.
The job postings in sites like Workopolis come as Uber ramps up pressure on the provincial government. The company has started a letter-writing campaign to Premier Christy Clark and even launched a petition. The government has warned Uber of significant penalties if it attempts to start its ride-for-hire service outside of the traditional taxi-licensing regime.
Uber’s format is simple. Drivers are required to be at least 21 years old, have a four-door vehicle, a driver’s license and insurance. People in 67 countries and over 400 cities worldwide are using Uber and similar ride-sharing programs to complete over one million trips every single day. Uber says “customers love the service because it connects them to a safe, reliable and affordable ride at the tap of a button.” Uber also claims “drivers love Uber because it provides higher earnings and greater flexibility.” Finally, their advertising claim is that “cities love Uber because it gives residents and visitors a reliable ride when they need one, reduces congestion and decreases impaired driving.”
What’s the problem then? The province has stated its concerns about safety and insurance, as well as the potential for job losses in the traditional taxi industry. Officials also acknowledge it is inevitable that some sort of start-up ride-for-hire companies will sneak into the B.C. market because it is impossible to completely monitor the industry.
So, what is the actual truth? Is Uber a good deal? If so, what’s the hang-up with the government giving thumbs up to the service? The first place to start is with the facts. Lonsdale Life spoke with Monnyem Mohammad, the general manager of North Shore Taxi to get the inside scoop on the taxi business.
- What does is the start-up cost to get into a cab in North Vancouver? $3.20
- What is the average fare for a customer in North Vancouver? $7.00
- How many hours are in a day or night shift per driver? Twelve.
- What percentage of the fare does the driver receive? None. The driver leases the car for a shift and once the cost of the lease is paid, any earnings and tips belong to the driver.
- What costs are included in the lease? Insurance, dispatching service, accounting and management.
- How much is a daily lease? Currently its $70-80 per shift, depending on the car. Most cars are Prius, a few other models are available.
- What is the average daily income for a driver on the North Shore, given that some days are quiet and other times are very busy? It ranges from $120 to $180 per day. Minus the lease.
- How much per hour does a driver earn per shift? $10-$15 depending on the day. It can be as low as $5 per hour on a slow day. Drivers only make money when the meter is running. They don’t get paid anything when the car is parked.
- Who pays for the fuel costs, driver or company? The driver must pay his or her own.
- How many cars does North Shore taxi have in its fleet? Currently 125 cabs
- What time of day do you start to provide service? We provide 24-hour service, with about 20 cabs starting at 4 a.m. and another 20 at 4.30 and so on. Service at that hour might be to the airport, hospitals, to select jobs.
- When is the busiest period of the day or week? Always Friday and Saturday nights.
- Is there enough of a night time pub, nightclub or bar scene in North Vancouver where customers are partying and require lots of taxis? Yes, on the weekends there is a lot of demand.
- How many taxis are operating in the Lower Mainland in 2016? I would estimate between 3,000 to 4,500, depending on the day.
- How many jobs does the taxi industry provide in the Lower Mainland? If you include part time and full time drivers, there may be as many as 10,000.
- Does driving a taxi provide enough income to support a family? It used to, but the cost of a mortgage in Vancouver is now prohibitive for virtually everyone. The income is enough money to pay rent, food and other standard costs.
Uber petition: https://action.uber.org/vancouver/
By Staff Writer
Photo caption: North Shore Taxi General manager Moonyem Mohammad.