The world certainly has changed, hasn’t it? Technologies that would have been impossible ten years ago now fit comfortably in your pocket. As the world changes, so too must government change to adapt to the new technologies. It is often a slow process, but it is also one that must serve the best interests of the people.
One of the new possibilities made available is ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft, which allows those with their own vehicles to drive others around, like a cheaper, faster taxi service. The new technology has created many conflicts with existing taxi providers who, under the current system of regulation, cannot compete with ride sharers (Competition Bureau, 2015).
What Makes These Services Different
Before I get too far ahead of myself, I should explain what makes Uber and other ride-sharing services different. Ride-sharing services allow somebody to order a ride through their smartphone. In theory, the person coming to pick you up is just sharing their vehicle with somebody else. It is much like driving a friend somewhere and having them pay for the fuel. Some cities have claimed that these apps are organized like a taxi service provider, and thus have tried to impose the same regulations on Uber drivers as they do for taxi drivers (Valiante, 2015).
Current Regulations on Taxis
The current system of regulation, which was set up to help protect the consumer, has instead burdened transportation services with requirements that limit the ability of independent drivers to operate, and limits our choices as passengers. The system of limiting the number of taxis allowed on the road and regulating fares ultimately drives up the costs to the consumer while restricting the amount of rides available when we need them the most.
Rather than impose the same restrictions on ride-sharing that we do on taxi drivers, we should instead lift restrictions on taxi services. By reducing the amount of regulation on this industry, traditional cab companies can more easily compete with Uber and services like it. The law must serve to benefit the community, not corporate interests.
Equal Treatment for Equal Services
Please keep in mind that I am not saying we should completely remove regulation. Local municipalities must have the freedom to regulate companies like Uber to make sure their services provide for the greater good of the community. What I propose is that we enact a new system of regulation to adapt to the possibilities created by ride sharing providers. This system should look at decreasing some of the existing regulations to allow for fair competition between the mulitple systems. This could be via adding a new category to our bylaw – Transportation Network Companies. The systems must apply the same rules to ride sharing networks that apply to traditional taxis. By providing equal treatment, we allow for greater choice for our friends and neighbors. That freedom of choice protects the consumer and encourages companies to provide the best service experience.
As new times bring with them new technologies, it is up to our local leaders to adapt the law to fit with the times. Our guiding light must always be to protect our friends and neighbors and provide them the best quality of life.
Competition Bureau (2015). Modernizing Regulation in The Canadian Taxi Industry. Retrieved from http://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/eng/04007.html
Valiante, Giuseppe (Jul. 19 2015). Canadian cities facing tough decisions over taxi-permit system. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/canadian-cities-facing-tough-decisions-over-taxi-permit-system/article25583512/