Opinion: Taxi industry should be happy ride sharing services set to launch

I love driving. A few years back I had clients in Seattle and Portland, and I used to look forward to driving down to visit them. They started calling me the Road Warrior. Given where we live, a love of driving can come in handy (although "driving" does not include being parked at the tunnel).

My daughter bought herself a car a while back, but got rid of it when she moved to Vancouver. A student, she got used to taking the bus. She moved to another location, and now needs a car again. We set out her budget and calculated how much it was going to cost her.

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Between gas and insurance (which is going to go up for her), it was going to cost her morthan $5,000 a year. Add in the cost of the car, maintenance, depreciation, etc., it was going to work out to about $6,500 a year. A pretty expensive decision.

Cars are expensive. For her budget, she could easily take cabs and the bus and save money in the long run. The problem is, she only would need short cab rides, and cab drivers don’t like short rides. Sometimes, they won’t even show up. So her only choice was to buy a car.

What the taxi industry doesn’t realize is it’s competition isn’t Uber and Lyft, it’s car dealers and Craigslist. Ride sharing is actually a benefit for taxis, and will grow the market. Toss in car-sharing services, and there’s little reason at all to have a car – if you live in the city.

Competition is always a good thing for consumers. People will take the path of greatest convenience, given a choice. Lots of people would love to abandon their cars, but simply can’t because they can’t always rely on a cab. With ride sharing, it’s like organized (and safer) hitchhiking – if someone is going your way, catch a ride. Plus, you’ll know what it costs you in advance. The cars are clean and the riders have an incentive to make the experience a great one as they are rated afterwards.

In today’s world, lack of competition will create competition. The only way to stay ahead of it is to not give people a reason to complain. If they are unhappy, they will find alternatives. The alternative used to be buying a car. Now there might be a new alternative.

For us in Delta, I think ride sharing will be a great thing. We have an aging population that relies on someone else driving for a very short trip. Need a ride down to Boundary Bay between buses? Hop in, I’m going that way anyway. And thanks for helping pay for my fuel.

These changes are coming, like them or not. Car rentals are getting expensive too. The alternative? Turo. It’s like Airbnb for cars. Great service, only problem is you have to pay to have the car cleaned unless you do it yourself. I don’t hear the car rental companies complaining, and Turo is direct competition.

Ride sharing is coming. Taxis will still survive. Can’t we all just get around?

Brad Sherwin, MBA is a long-time resident of South Delta, and has almost 30 years’ experience in marketing, public relations and business strategy. He teaches marketing at Douglas College, coaches hockey goalies and is president of the board of directors at Deltassist.

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