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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Horses, Bayonets and Toronto's Taxi Barons

If ever a case was to be made of the desperate need for taxi companies to get with the times, this is it.

Uber is increasingly popular, especially among younger travellers.  Individuals and companies have started to play with Uber's potential value-add - everything from pizza delivery and mail service to increasing mobility for people with mobility issues.  Yes, it's a new model and yes, it requires new regulatory frameworks to support it - but with initiatives like Tim Hudak's Private Member's Bill aim to do just that.

Apart from providing supplementary income, part of the big reason Uber is so increasingly popular is because it is the anti-taxi.  The taxi racket has a bad name in town; drivers rushing corners or cutting off pedestrians, taxi barons gouging their own drivers, etc.  

In the free market, customers are the evolutionary forces that determines what survives, and they tend to favour what is seen to work in their best interests.  Increasingly, the traditional taxi model is becoming the horse and bayonet of commuting options.  It represents a bygone era of service dictators who fought government with the assumption that the public was really a passive third party.

Uber, on the other hand, represents where society is at now - civic engagement, expansion of option, governments looking to support entrepreneurship and co-design services and regulatory environments with the public as well as the usual organizational suspects.  They've hired some smart young policy minds and communicators from Queen's Park (the amazing Susie Heath comes to mind) who know how to engage, not just message, and who better reflect Uber's end-user than old-school taxi company owners.

Which brings us to this inane protest which will disrupt traffic, piss off commuters and reinforce all the things people dislike about taxis and the entire taxi industry.  

Why on earth would taxis schedule their own funeral procession?  What can they possibly hope to gain by frustrating the people who ultimately pay their bills - citizens?

Simply, because the taxi industry lives in the past and haven't figured out why they need to change their tactics from what worked a century ago.

The theory here is dominance - flex your muscle, remind people what power you have and then force the powers that be to turn their backs on your competition, leaving you with a non-competitive market.  It's what Steven Harper tried to do as a politician, which ultimately led to his downfall.

Sorry, Taxi barons, but that just isn't the way it works any more.  

Moves like this don't strengthen your cause - they alienate your "base."  And the more young commuters have their experience of taxis tainted with negatives, the less likely they will be to use them - especially when they can turn to friends or try new experiences through organizations like Uber.

By all means, proceed as you feel is right - get your horses and bayonets out and show those politicians who's boss.

It's your funeral.  I just hope you can afford the fare.

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