Many of us have seen or witness the worldwide battle between Uber and taxi drivers. Long history short, taxi drivers are defending their livelihood, while Uber represents the new way of working. The thing is, taxi services around the world are regulated by cities. So, in order to operate a taxi, the owner of it must pay the city a fee, which in some cities (like here in Montreal) could cost thousand of dollars. As such, taxis companies/drivers have a lot of leverage towards city mayors, and -obviously- have no interest in changing the status quo.
If a city wants to allow Uber to operate legally, it first needs to convince the taxi companies that it won’t hurt them -good luck with that!-, or it needs to abolish completely the taxi badge fee -good luck with that too!-. To complicate matters, the taxi badge (acquired for a fee) is been used like a fast-food franchise. It’s a long term investment (retirement) many families depend on. They’ll fight to their death -literally- to keep it valuable. Oh.. and lets not forget that abolishing the taxi fee on a city also represents the lost of revenue for the municipality government, so city mayors neither see a benefit by abolishing it.
On the other side, trying to regulate or prohibit something like Uber is close to impossible given the stealthy way which -by nature- it operates. Some taxi drivers here in Montreal have proposed that the Uber app be prohibited to be downloaded on the province. The thing is -currently- such a measure is not possible because app stores filter by country, but not by province. To allow such a thing, it requires a significant change on the App Store (Apple) and Google Play. And these last two don’t have a place in this party, so why would they do it?
Legalize Uber in a city with electric cars only
Why? Because the entry barrier for Uber will be higher. Lets see, currently there are not many electric cars on the road, so the pool of drivers allowed for Uber will automatically be lower, thus having a lower impact on the current taxi service. Taxis will delay their -inevitable- extinction or adapt, while the Uber phenomenon will be slowed down. On top of all, by forcing Uber (or a similar services like Lyft) to only use electric cars, will increase the use of these type of cars, lowering the cost, making more people buying them and so on and so forth. Need I explain that having an increasing fleet of electric cars in a city is a good thing? City Mayors can brag about about how this measure helps everyone.
Electric taxis are not a novelty, Montreal’s Téo is a taxi company with a fleet exclusively composed on electric vehicles. However, Téo is the only company with such a proposal, using some tricks in order to get cheaper taxis badges and getting some government funding in the process (nothing wrong with that, but it also means not many companies can pull that off). Last but not least, Téo’s expansion will be slow, according to themselves.
As always, many changes involve political will. And with any change somebody loses and somebody wins. Politicians -understandably so-, avoid confrontation. In this case though, a decision has to be made. The sharing economy won’t disappear, it’s only going to get bigger, fighting it is just delaying that confrontation, the more anybody waits, the bigger the damage and impact will be for the status quo.
Image source: @jrisco