Will ride-sharing ever come to Estevan?

We’re a step closer to having ride-sharing services in this province.

The provincial government has approved ride-sharing legislation, which will allow services such as Lyft and Uber to set up shop in the province.

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As you would expect, the Saskatchewan Taxi Cab Association is not happy with this legislation. They cite easier regulations for ride-sharing companies. For example, you can have a Class 5 licence and drive an Uber vehicle; you need Class 4 or higher to drive a taxi cab.

And the taxi association wants to have caps on the number of Uber drivers, much like the caps that exist for taxis.

The taxi association’s concerns make sense. The government should have created a level playing field between cab companies and ride-sharing services. Don’t give ride-sharing companies an unfair advantage over the existing cab companies, many of which have been in Saskatchewan for decades. At the same time, don’t make the legislation so onerous that it prevents ride-sharing services from coming here.

Right now, you have to wonder if the playing field isn’t tilted towards ride-sharing.

Taxi companies should have another concern: ride-sharing services are the direction that a lot of passengers are taking elsewhere.

We don’t want to give Uber free publicity, but if you download their app, you’ll get to choose your Uber driver. You find out the vehicle they’re driving, the reviews that people have given, and how long it will be before they’re at your location. They tell you everything except their favourite food and their best friend in the third grade.

It’s so simple even people who aren’t technologically savvy can work it.

Taxi companies haven’t always done a good job of adapting to the arrival of ride-sharing companies in other jurisdictions. They spend their time huffing and venting, but perhaps their focus should be on finding ways to keep their businesses as the customers’ preferred option once Uber arrives.

Yes, we’ve heard horror stories about ride-sharing services in the past, with drivers over-charging, or acting in illegal or unethical manners. What you don’t hear are the stories of drivers safely and courteously getting their passengers to their destination.

There’s one other issue we have to consider: will a ride-sharing service such as Uber ever come to Estevan, or other small communities?

Estevan might be too small for Uber and Lyft. Sure, you’ll have times, such as Christmas party season, where a driver for a ride-sharing service could make good money during the night.

But will the business be there on a Tuesday night in Estevan? Probably not.

You can be sure that Estevan city council will pass a ride-sharing bylaw, likely at some point in 2019. The bylaw is needed for these companies to set up shop in the city, so it would be irresponsible not to set up a bylaw.

Hopefully council will create a level playing field between the existing cab companies and the ride-sharing services.

But that doesn’t mean Uber will be beating down the doors to come to Estevan.

They’ll want to be in the big cities like Regina and Saskatoon, the growing suburbs for those cities, and the secondary markets like Moose Jaw and Prince Albert, and maybe the Battlefords.

They might not be so eager to come to Estevan, Swift Current and Yorkton. And you likely won’t see them in small towns like Bienfait and Lampman.

It’s too bad. Ride-sharing services could present a solution to reducing the impaired driving rates in Saskatchewan, in markets of all sizes.

You still see too many people climbing into their vehicles after a night of drinking at a licensed establishment, and driving home, whether it be the other side of town, or back to their farm 20 kilometres away.

Any credible idea that cuts down on impaired driving is worth investigating.

However, it’s unlikely there would be enough money or activity for ride-sharing services in communities like Bienfait.

But it will be welcome news in the larger markets. We only wish that it was a fair fight between this new model of delivering a service, and the traditional model of operating a taxi company.  

 

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