How Does Mississauga Feel About Uber?
So, there was a scene yesterday.
After a week or so of attention-grabbing dramatics (namely a desperate and histrionic hunger strike), some members of the traditional taxicab industry staged a massive protest in Toronto, clogging streets and horrifying reporters when one excitable protestor punched and then rode an UberX vehicle.
The hunger strike -- a last resort protest typically used to combat grave political oppression -- and massive exercise in traffic disruption were the culmination of months of frustration on behalf of an industry that, in many ways, fueled its inevitable defeat at the hands of a friendlier, more customer service-oriented "enemy."
To be fair, traditional cab drivers do have legitimate concerns regarding a new, non-competitive taxi service landscape in which Uber has some advantages. The protests, they say, are meant to encourage Toronto City Hall to ban (or at least suspend) Uber -- a service it says is operating outside of bylaws and cutting into their profits. While the city is looking into reforming bylaws to level the playing field, Toronto Mayor John Tory has said the injunction the drivers are demanding is not going to happen.
Some protestors, avoiding attacking Uber vehicles and instead appealing to people's empathy, are claiming that Uber is literally taking food out of their mouths.
While all of this madness is currently playing out in downtown Toronto, the entire GTA -- including Mississauga -- is turning to Uber for a few reasons. In fact, cab drivers in Mississauga have been open about their worries regarding the newer company's growing presence in Mississauga.
According to an interesting story in The Globe and Mail, traditional taxi services are losing customers because they don't treat them well. In the article, writer Jordan Chittley recounts an incident in which he and his wife sat in a white, sticky substance (yeah...) in the back of a Beck cab and were not compensated by the company for their dry cleaning expenses. After being delayed by the unsanitary conditions in the car, the writer and his wife called an UberX. After a little investigating, Chittley found out that Uber would indeed address an incident in which a customer's clothing was ruined by a mysterious substance in the vehicle.
Other issues with traditional taxis (in Mississauga and elsewhere) abound. Who hasn't gotten into a cab with a visible debit/credit machine, only to be told at the drop off that the machine is "broken" and only cash will be accepted? In that all too common scenario, the "helpful" driver offers to take you to a bank, keeping the meter running the entire time (even though, if the machine was broken, he or she should have said something immediately). With Uber, you can use the app to pre-pay by credit card, eliminating an annoying, costly and unexpected trip to an ATM machine at 4 am.
Other taxi passengers complain of aggressive driving, unfriendly service and staggeringly high fares. Once, a family member of mine was charged extra after being dropped off at her home in Mississauga by a taxi she hailed at Pearson. Her house, he argued, was in Oakville and not Mississauga.
Her house is absolutely in Mississauga.
In the case of taxis vs. Uber, the situation is complex. Taxi companies have restrictions that make it difficult for them to compete, but Uber isn't cutting into their bottom lines simply because the cab industry hasn't evolved to accommodate a broader market. It's attracting their customers because it provides, for the most part, superior service. It arrives faster and doesn't typically refuse rides to less convenient destinations. How many of you have had a Toronto cab refuse to drive you back to Mississauga? How many of you have had a Mississauga cab refuse you service to Toronto?
So, Mississauga, how do you feel? Have you been using Uber instead of traditional cabs to ferry you to the bar or to or from the airport? Do you think Uber entering the market will encourage the taxi industry to reform?
Share your thoughts in the comments.
Have you ever used Uber in Mississauga?
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