Halifax survey to gauge public's thoughts on ride-sharing companies
If you find yourself in need of a lift in Halifax, your choices are to call a friend, take public transit, or a hail a cab; but, there could be more options in the future.
A survey recently launched by the city is looking at issues in the taxi industry and whether ride-share programs should be given a chance.
It has sparked an Uber debate about just how welcome the service would be in our region.
The concept of Uber was born a decade ago -- a length of time that seems particularly striking in the Maritimes, because we still don't have it, and if the taxi industry gets its way, we never will.
On a blustery September day, outside a popular tourist destination on the Halifax waterfront, Julia Bronstad and Judy Brewer explore the city for the first time.
Their journey from Dallas began with an Uber ride to the airport.
“It was fine,” said Bronstad. “We asked him to be there at a certain time, and they were on time, and at a reasonable rate also.”
It's an industry that's thrived in our connected world.
Uber was born in Paris in December of 2008 when two tech-savvy young entrepreneurs expressed frustration about not being able to get a cab.
Three months later, they'd developed the app, and by July of 2009, the first rider booked a trip with a driver in San Francisco who was looking to pick up some extra cash.
Eight years later, the company says it has facilitated 10 billion trips in 21 countries.
Already established in other markets in Canada, Uber now seems to have its sights set on the Maritimes.
The company's food delivery service is already available and Uber is encouraging its users to take part in a survey Halifax is conducting on the future of the taxi industry.
People in that business are well aware.
“We're not protected,” said Dave Buffett, the president of the Halifax Taxi Association. “Uber does not ask municipalities, provinces or the federal government, ‘can we operate in your zone?’”
After a lifetime in the taxi business, Buffett thought he’d seen it all, but the rise of ride-sharing services has been on the radar for a few years now.
He notes cabbies already pay heavy tax and insurance for the right to carry passengers, and they've upped their game and banded together in recent years.
“Ultimately, we're competing against each other - this company against that company - but we have to start working together,” Buffett said. “So, if one company takes a passenger north, and the other brings him south, as long as we're keeping it in the industry.”
Crissy McDow, who started the Lady Drive Her shuttle service to the Halifax airport, is also opposed to Uber.
“The taxi and limousine industry does not want to see Uber here,” she said. “We could take care of the city. All you have to do is what I asked for at city hall. I asked you to remove the zone so we could move freely about.”
Brewer says there were complaints from taxi drivers in Dallas, but the service took off anyway, and the fact that it's not available here is a bit of a surprise to the visitors from Dallas.
“I thought it was everywhere,” said Brewer. “If you didn't have Uber, you had Lyft.”
Uber continues to expand by leaps and bounds. The company is now offering apps to connect users to car and scooter rentals, transit tickets, and of course delivery of food and other items.
The company says it's all a movement toward your phone actually replacing your car.
Buffet points out Uber drivers really have nothing to lose in all of this: it's a part-time gig for most of them, anyway.
That online survey in Halifax runs until Oct. 11 and officials say they'll study the results as part of a review of the taxi industry around here, and it may or may not result in some changes.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Bruce Frisko.