Tough luck, said Ahmad (not his real name). There’s no going back now, said the newly minted uberX driver. It’s new technology, and that in itself is enough to make it, well, if not exactly legal, at least inevitable.
Vocal objections from the mayor didn’t stop San Francisco-based ride-sharing service Uber from introducing its uberX discount taxi rides here last week — and many Montrealers, it seems, are hopping on the bandwagon.
It remains to be seen whether Uber, which is used by existing taxi licence owners, and its discount arm uberX, which involves drivers using their own unmarked cars who charge 30 per cent less than a regular taxi, will survive scrutiny from the Bureau du taxi de Montréal, which is taking a long hard look at it.
“It’s illegal any way you look at it,” said Raffi Artinian, general manager of Diamond Taxi, Montreal’s largest cab company with 1,100 cars.
“Every transportation company in Montreal, be it school buses, city buses, taxi services — any transportation service — has to to be registered. It has to have the proper insurance, it has to follow rules and regulations. Uber does not.”
That’s because it’s a smartphone app. No phone calls, no dispatcher, no verbal communications.
Montreal manager Jean-Nicolas Guillemette could not immediately be reached by the Montreal Gazette.
Coderre has blasted Uber, saying he’s in favour of car-sharing in general. But Uber is a commercial enterprise that’s not playing by the rules everyone else must obey, he said.
Coderre spokesman Louis-Pascal Cyr declined to expand on the issue.
But Artinian said that “all options are on the table,” including a cease-and-desist order or a lawsuit by the Bureau.
“Uber has no reporting to do to anyone,” said Artinian. “They don’t have to show they’re insured, to show that their drivers know the city, they don’t have to show their drivers have gone through any kind of training.”
“If they want to play the game with us, fine. We welcome the competition. We’re not scared of competition, in fact, it’s always good. But this is unfair competition.”
“How would Montrealers feel if the next time the Boston Bruins came here, Boston decided ‘You know what? We’re changing the rules. You (Canadiens) will be five with one goalie. We’ll be six guys with two goalies.”
“We’re just asking for a level playing field.”
But Ahmad, a 35-year-old trained engineer who immigrated 10 years ago from North Africa and works from home as a day trader and general investor, said that he sees nothing unfair about the service.
“I signed up (for uberX) on Wednesday, the first day,” he said.
“By that logic, you could say that trains and buses are also unfair competition.”
“With each innovation, with new technologies, you’ll always have new opportunities. You have to adapt and profit from new technologies. Each sector has to evolve with time. This is a new experience that didn’t exist before and it’s thanks to technologies like 3G, GPS, the Internet (online payment). Things change, that’s all.
Ahmad said that he had to undergo a criminal and driving background check, that his 2013 Toyota had a mechanical inspection and that UberX pays for his insurance on the job.
But what about all the expenses licensed taxi drivers must pay?
“That’s not unfair because we’re not really in competition with taxis. We’re a ride-sharing service. It’s very different.”
“People can flag them down on the street. We’re at home until someone calls us.”