There’s been a lot of noise lately in the debate in Vancouver over whether the city’s licensing board should allow the crowd-based ridesharing service Uber into its passenger transportation landscape. This battle is one that is high-stakes: loaded terms like “cartel” and horror stories of sexual assault by unlicensed drivers have been tossed by the two sides. Both sides have some points – but I think there’s a different solution: cooperatives.
The argument seems, at first blush, to be simple: Vancouver is underserved by taxis, with extremely long passenger waits reported on weekends and busy evenings. The Vancouver Taxi Association, a trade group representing taxi companies is, according to some, the cause of these problems: as they represent taxi companies, an increase in taxis on streets isn’t in their private interests, so they oppose more cabs rolling out. Which is where Uber enters – a crowd-based ridesharing service, Uber’s extremely well financed business is to connect independent drivers who want to make a few bucks with people who want a ride, all via the cloud and smartphones. Uber’s business model short-circuits the protectionism of the Taxi Association, which really puts them on the defensive, and that’s where the debate really exploded at the end of 2014 and continues into this year.
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