You know a new product has become an integral part of everyday life when people start using the product name interchangeably with its use.
“Hand me a tissue” can just as easily be “hand me a Kleenex.” Stay in and watch television is now interchangeable with “stay in and watch Netflix.”
This phenomenon has now occurred in world of transportation, where “call me an Uber” is just as common as “call me a cab.”
Young people, simply put, do not take a taxi cab unless completely necessary because they have found a cheaper, faster, and better way to get around. The thought of calling a cab is a foreign concept to someone like me and others in my demographic, and is fast going the way of other whimsical concepts like physically mailing a letter… made out of paper. My guess is there are people in my generation who aren’t sure how a stamp operates.
Uber is modelled on a simple concept; one so simple it makes you ask, “why didn’t I think of that?” Founded nine years ago, Uber allows anyone with a smartphone, a valid drivers’ license and a car (that meets Uber’s standards) to sign up as a driver. It’s a tempting proposition, because a driver can use their existing vehicle, work whenever they like, and make a few dollars driving others around (how much money, exactly, varies on the amount they choose to work and customer demand).
But more importantly, it provides the rest of us with a fast, easy, cheap, and surprisingly safe transportation. Through the application on your phone, you enter the location you want to go, and it immediately tells you when your ride can pick you up, who will be driving, and how much your trip will cost.
Through Uber, we can immediately order a ride, and using GPS, see how far away the driver is from picking us up. There’s no need to wait outside and try to flag down a taxi, when a designated Uber will pull right up to your location.
Naturally, there are concerns about who will be picking you up, and if this person is trustworthy. But that’s one of the benefits of ride sharing applications; other customers rate drivers, and poor drivers are removed from Uber, already providing us with more layers of protection than the taxi industry. Ride-sharing companies like Uber are legislated by cities, much like taxis are. If you’re okay with the idea of accepting a taxi ride, Uber is no different - except the car probably isn’t yellow.
In sprawling Albertan cities like Edmonton or Calgary, taxi licenses are limited by municipal bylaws, meaning we could be left waiting for ages for a taxi to pick us up. Last year, Edmonton had 1,319 taxi licenses, virtually unchanged over the past five years. By comparison, ride-sharing licenses jumped ten-fold, with 3,826 granted.
Like all industry disruptors, you’ve probably heard some negative things about Uber. Unfortunately, the founders may not be the nicest, or most ethical of people. And the taxi industry has a legitimate complaint – why should taxi drivers pay for expensive licenses, while Uber drivers can sign up for free? This is a valid argument, and one many cities have struggled with. But ride sharing companies have won the legal battle to operate and appear to be here to stay.
If you’d rather support a local business making strides in the industry, Edmonton-based TappCar is an option – or even drive yourself around with Pogo, a car sharing application that allows you to drive and leave a car in certain, high traffic zones. Either way, the choice is yours; which is a lot more than we had a generation ago.