5 Reasons Uber is Now Legal in Edmonton

Let’s just jump right in… especially since my home town of Edmonton just became the first city in Canada to legalize Uber!  Here are my 5 reasons that Uber isn’t going anywhere… and will be legal everywhere sooner or later…

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1. Pleasure and Comfort

Abouzar Aslam, vice-president of the United Cabbies Association of Edmonton, went all in and played the racism card because that is the only weapon he has left now that they failed to convince the city to stomp out technological advancement in favor of their archaic services…

Most of the public who uses Uber, they are young people, and they think that the Uber driver who is going to come to pick them up, he’s going to be a white guy like them. So there’s discrimination at play.
~ Abouzar Aslam

Let me tell you how nice it is to get a ride with a driver who is friendly and speaks English but also displays a grain of courtesy to the customer. I don’t know what cabs are like where you live but I am in the small suburb of St. Albert, just North of Edmonton, Alberta and our municipal code does not include much for taxis. The last two times I called a local cab they were both smoking. The vehicle’s stunk horribly.

The last time I needed a ride to the airport I called an Edmonton taxi and I had to listen to tambourine music for 40 minutes. It wasn’t too loud or overly annoying… at least not compared to the driver talking on his phone the whole time to someone in another language.

Am I a racist?  Hell no.  While I am happier to get a driver who understands and speaks English, I will readily admit that racism is running rampant in the taxi industry.

This last trip was just symptomatic of how the majority of current cab drivers think of ‘white guys’, as they call us.  They are clearly racist toward us.  This last trip was screaming of unprofessional methods of conducting business.

The fare was $79.80 and I let the guy keep the change from four 20’s. Had I used a credit card he would not have gotten the 20 cents either.

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Edmonton taxi drivers are learning the hard way that they need to start caring about their customers or they will simply go the way of the Beta (or VHS for that matter) Photo: Ian Kucerak – Edmonton Sun

Uber drivers get a bigger cut of the fare based on their rating so it is in each of their best interest to not just make you very happy but to make sure you bump up their star rating. The app will send you a receipt and ask you to rate the driver right after your trip ends.

Taxi companies simply don’t care what customers think because they have never had to and in cities like Calgary and Vancouver, they still don’t.  They can let racism run wild through their industry and treat customers with zero courtesy and there is no recourse for the customer.

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Edmonton however, is embracing the new technology and working with all stakeholders to come up with equitable solutions and just this week they announced that Uber is actually legal and entitled to operate in Edmonton.  They are the first Canadian city to make this announcement and I for one am excited!

If we pass this bylaw, we will be the first city in Canada … to force the taxi industry to get with the times and improve their service.
~ Edmonton Coun. Michael Walters

2. Convenience

Talking about convenience is a clear winner for Uber. How can you possibly beat Uber for convenience? You open the app on your phone and push a button. Approve the price and within seconds you can see the car that is on its way to come get you and you know the licence plate number and see the pic of the driver.

You do not need any cash or a credit card. Your credit card info is stored in the app when you install it so all you really need is your phone.

Want to try Uber out for free?

Click here to setup your own Uber account.  You will get a free $15 credit toward your first ride, and I will get one too!  You wouldn’t mind me getting something for the 20 hours of work on this post would you?  *smile*

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The Uber app makes it simple to see your estimated pick-up time, how much your fare will be and to order a ride.

 

3. Speed and Efficiency

I have never had a taxi come as quick as an Uber but you will have to determine how fast they are for your location by downloading and logging into the app (see link above to setup your own account).

The speed will depend on your location’s demand and number of drivers but my experiences in Edmonton and Austin, Texas have been amazing.  I have never waited more than 7 minutes for a ride.

Unfortunately for some of you, Uber isn’t even available as some municipalities have outlawed the app to save their fledgling taxi companies from being forced to enter the 21st century.

How many of us have called a cab company back after 40 minutes of waiting just to get an update as to where the car was to figure out someone had stolen your ride and now you have to wait for a new one.  This can’t happen with Uber as the driver has your name and picture and you have the cars license and a picture of the driver as soon as he/she accepts your fare.

On the flip side, taxis can take you anywhere and on any route they want, especially if you are a tourist unfamiliar with their streets or traffic.  With Uber, you get a quote up front and the driver simply can’t drive another way to make more money.  They gets what the trip is worth.

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Getting an estimate for your fare is only a click away.  Fares are typically 40% less than taxi rates in Edmonton.  The taxi estimate for this run is $55.

4. Price

Uber isn’t always half the price of a taxi but in my experience it has always been less expensive.  These guys did a much better cost analysis than I will ever do.

When they have too much demand for the number of drivers they go to what they call “surge” pricing that can apparently really go up. During rush hour or a sporting event I have seen it go to triple price but it was short lived. Ten minutes later it was back to normal.

Taxi companies simply cannot respond that quickly to any kind of demand.

This is a great day for Edmonton, this is a win for both riders and drivers in Edmonton. Although we have made some concessions in the bylaw, this is a workable framework.
~ Ramit Kar, Uber’s general manager for Alberta

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I absolutely do not feel safe in a taxi.  They have proven to me time and time again that they are simply not good drivers and now I see some serious anger issues.  photo: Emilio Avalos – CBC

5. Safety

Before I get into the meat and potatoes, I would like to mention that Uber drivers won’t get mugged because they carry zero cash.  Big benefit over taxi driving, especially in the days before bank machines where cab drivers can now dump money quickly between fares.

This is actually going to become a whole new blog post because of how infuriating some comments I read online were.  Granted many comments come from immigrant cab drivers who barely speak English and feel they are owed something because they bought a taxi.

When someone mentions safety, as my own daughter did, I simply inform them of the facts.  Taxis can only be tracked if you know the name or taxi cab number and you really should have picture of it on your phone to protect yourself later if there is a dispute.

Where cabs often do not turn the meter on for fares (which is illegal), Uber operators can only pick up a fare once you as a customer have requested it and they as a driver have logged on and accepted it.

The driver and the route are totally tracked using the GPS on both phones, the driver’s and the customer’s.  This aids police and insurance companies in any disputes or legal actions.  This offers a level of protection for Uber drivers and customers that the taxi industry doesn’t offer and has historically not been interested in discussing… but that is another blog post.


 

And Now the Cons of Uber

There is a small con in the pricing with the “surge” pricing which I have personally seen hit 3x the normal fare.  Most times you will see the surge drop within ten minutes as more drivers sign on to get the extra money but there are some horror stories like that of Matt Lindsay who accepted a 100Km (60 mile) ride on New Year’s Eve and ended up with an $1100 charge on his credit card.

He ended up getting half of it back as a rebate from Uber but you can see where asking an intoxicated individual to figure out what 8.9x surge pricing works out to can bite you in the ass… *smile*

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Congratulations Matt, you do look stupid indeed… but your Uber came in 5 minutes while the wait for a cab exceeded 2 hours on New Year’s.

There is one big con in the Uber debate in Canada and that is with Insurance.

When I returned from Texas last September I immediately looked into driving for Uber, especially on the weekend when I need to be downtown to pick up my own kids from a bar at some point, I might as well make some money while I am out and about.

My concern, and I have not found a solution yet, is that the only insurance company that would insure me as an Uber driver (which requires Livery Insurance) wants to charge me $8000 a year, the same they charge a taxi driver.  Considering that a cabbie does this for 60 hours a week and I am looking at 4 hours a week, it seems a little crazy that I would be required to pay the same insurance.

Once again, with a taxi it is impossible to know how many hours he actually drove that month but with Uber drivers they could get billed monthly based on how many hours they were logged into the app.

Uber is currently working with Intact to develop a hybrid insurance offering to Canadians in the very near future.  For now, drivers need to ensure that their vehicle insurance is covered for paid passengers.  Without this additional commercial insurance, the driver (who probably has a day job), their vehicle and the paying customer might find themselves uninsured if there is an accident.

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So much for Mr. Aslam from the taxi association calling all Uber drivers “racist” or “white guys”… there are men and women from every ethnicity driving for Uber so you can shove your racism Mr. Aslam.   photo: Kevin Tuong – Metro

So What is the Biggest Benefit of Uber?

The biggest benefit of Uber is that more people will learn math.  Surge pricing is going to catch some off guard but they email you before busy nights to warn you…. post big surge pricing numbers on your screen… and send you a car in a few minutes.

Yes, there are many people like Matt and Cassandra Zakaib out there who can’t do basic math.  In Matt’s defense, he isn’t whining about the money because he learned a lesson and he saved upwards of 2 hours waiting for a taxi (that was our quote on New Year’s Eve). There was a price to pay for a 5-minute pick up and it was apparently 8.9x more than Matt was expecting.

I was actually considering how plausible it would be to drive for Uber and actually charge my own kids for their rides.  It was their idea if I become an Uber driver and I am not opposed to it after a decade of giving free rides to them and their friends.

Of course this would probably restrict my ability to upload videos of my kids puking outside as their driver… maybe I will stick to being their father for those late night adventures… the videos are worth it.

(this video has captions if you want)

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