Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Hamilton's Check Engine Light Crisis and Other News

  • Unanimous Pro-Uber City Council Vote: The Damage

  • "Check Engine Light" Crisis

  • Uber MADDness

Uber Hamilton by the Numbers

Working with numbers can be a lot of fun. At least, I think so. I once took an in-house course, back when I had a real job, called "Strategies of Experimentation." I can't remember anything I learned in that course, but it made an impression on me that impacts my thinking to this day. It says that if you don't have solid data to work with, use the next best thing. Try to build a cloud of probability. Use whatever information you do have and think about whether it falls within the realm of reasonable expectation.

The following analysis attempts to use this approach to some degree.

What is known for sure is the approximate amount each taxi operator pays to the taxi broker for the service of matching riders with drivers - just like any other "technology company." That is $500 per month, per cab, or $6000 per year, per cab. With 448 licensed cabs in Hamilton, the two brokers share an income of 448 X $6,000 = $2,688,000 (two million, six hundred and eighty-eight thousand dollars.)

In accordance with Hamilton politician's shady deal with the Uber corporation, the city has declared that it expects to receive an initial bribe of $50,000 (the so-called Uber license fee,) plus an additional bribe of $20,000 to exempt Uber from any accessible transportation mandates. In addition to that $50K the deal that received "unanimous" support from council, Uber, the two brokers, and the taxi school, requires that Uber transfer six cents from every Uber ride to the City. According to published reports, the city estimates that Uber drivers will run one million trips per year. At $0.06 per trip that adds up to $60,000 extra dollars for the city.

It will, of course, be very interesting to see how the real numbers add up, now that Uber has been operating under this deal for almost a year.

In the meantime, I will use the City's estimates to arrive at a picture of how much local Hamilton money is being extracted and sent to Uber's banks in the Netherlands, for eventual distribution amongst Goldman Sach's, Saudi Arabia, and the rest of Uber's investors.

First off, there is Uber's $2.80 "booking fee," the equivalent of the non-exempt taxi brokerage fees. At one million trips per year in Hamilton, Uber makes $2.8 million dollars. That amount, alone, exceeds the $2,688,000 the two brokers earn for doing the same thing as Uber.

The real brilliance in Uber's "business model" is not the technology built in to its dispatch software (a dime a dozen,) but in its ability to sucker its hundreds of thousands of drivers into surrendering an additional 25% of the income they earn after rider and driver have been matched, using "assets they already own" in Tim Hudak's famous words. In other words, Uber's driver/"partners" turn assets they already own (or financed) into income for Uber.

It's a stroke of pure genius.

Note: My calculations exclude HST.

In the absense of data, I will asume that the average Uber trip in Hamilton runs about $12.00. Minus the $2.80 booking fee, the remaining $9.20 is composed of the $2.50 basic fare, the $0.90 cents per Km charge, and any time charges at $.15 per minute.

Out of that $9.20, Uber receives an additional 25%, or $2.30. Multiply that by the estimated one million Hamilton trips per year, and Uber sends another $2.3 million dollars to its Netherlands banks.

Adding that $2.3 million dollars to the $2.8 million dollars, it emerges that Hamilton City council basically handed the Uber corporation $5 million dollars per year to provide a redundant service.

Hamilton's non-exempt taxi sector was already at roughly 400% over-capacity. (That is why you see long queues of taxicabs all over the city. They have been idled by regulatory incompetence. Are you pissed off by that taxi driver loitering in the parking spot you wanted? Don't blame him. Blame the city council.)

Correspondingly, the Hamilton City Council transferred about one million trips per annum from the non-exempt taxi drivers to Uber.

One million trips per annum, at an estimated $12 per trip for non-exempt taxis equates to about a $12 million reduction in income amongst Hamilton's 1,200 non-exempt cab drivers, or $10,000 per driver. This estimate jibes with the cab driver I interviewed regarding Mayor Fred Eisenberger's fake news. When I asked this driver how much income he has lost as a result of Uber partnering up with the city he stated, "Oh, a couple hundred per week." $200 per week times 52 weeks equals $10,400 per year. Two numbers in the same ball park.

Again, these numbers are ball-park. The real number could be between, say $8,000 and $12,000. (Or wider. Prove me wrong if you can.) If anyone reading this has better data, I beg you, please share it with me. Similarly, if anyone wishes to quibble with my arithmetic, please speak up.

Numbers aside, from some of the feedback I have been getting from some of the drivers I have spoken to, the City's rigging of the local taxi market in favour of Uber has really hurt them. Many have resorted to paying Uber to use their personal cars as taxicabs.

One driver told me, "I never would have believed I would find myself wishing I was ten years older, so I could be out of this mess."

Another driver expressed delight at the fact that his diabetes condition had escalated to the point where his prescription costs finally made him eligible for the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP.)

Think about that for a second. ODSP is now seen as a step up the career ladder for some Hamilton cab drivers.

The members of council had to be aware of the harm and hardship their decision to allow Uber to enter the Hamilton taxi market would impose on the most vulnerable members of the taxi industry. Yet they went ahead and did it. If the mayor is to be believed, the council vote was unanimous.

Last night (Dec 4, 2017) one driver told me he had to use overdraft protection to pay his rent, for the first time ever.

Thank you, Hamilton City Council.

And then think about this the next time you see one of our local politicians flatulating about their desire to eliminate poverty in Hamilton, or virtue signaling their approval of the pending minimum wage hike, which will only serve to lotterize (my word invention - "to make a lottery of") income distribution for those on the margins. Just like McWynne's guaranteed income project.

And then think again, about the $5 million dollars Hamilton City Council handed to Uber on a silver platter on the pretext that this had anything to do with "technology."

The same tales of misery have been replicated in every jurisdiction in Ontario where local politicians complied with Uber's business model.

It's Sickening.

-- More info.

Taxi turmoil caused suicides - See here.

Of note: "Mr Rowe said drivers are working increasingly long hours and being fined by gardai as they are unable to even find a place to park on a rank." (See Hamilton GO station, or King St. near the Sheraton Hotel.)

50 taxi driver suicides in past 4 years - See here.

‘There is no future’ - See here.

December 2017 - Hamilton's "Check Engine Light" Crisis

The latest in Hamilton's Fake Campaign to "Level the Playing Field" between Exempt and Non-Exempt Taxi Companies

Over the latter part of November, I started to hear several reports about the newly deployed "Mobile Enforcement Officer(s)" accosting, and in one case, following and cornering a non-exempt cab driver for on road spot checks. In too many of these reports, the cabs were cited for having "check engine" lights glowing on the instrument panels.

Last summer, then Senior Project Manager for the city, Monica Ciriello responded to an inquiry by taxi school lobbyist, Steve Jones, regarding the status of the City's enforcement of the terms of its new arrangement with the Uber cab company. In her response, she noted that the city was in the process of hiring a mobile enforcement officer to perform on road spot checks.

I suspected at the time that this would be another one of the City's classic bait and switch tactics. Yes, one or more mobile enforcement officers would be deployed, but instead of focusing on the invisible Uber cabs, they would end up targeting the non-exempt taxis.

As the reports started coming in to me, I felt vindicated. I can read this city government like a book.

In the case of Uber, the City collects a six cent per trip dividend from Uber. The City, therefore, has a built in incentive to see Uber not only succeed, but expand. In effect, Uber and the City of Hamilton are now partners. The non-exempt taxi operators are their competition.

On 25 November, 2017, I sent a followup to Mr. Jones' email to the addressees, which included the members of council as well as Director of Licensing, Ken Leendertse, requesting the following:

Would you be kind enough to let the people on this list know how many Uber cabs have been inspected by the City's mobile enforcement officers vs. non-Uber cabs, and how many, if any, compliance orders and/or fines were issued to them vs. the Uber cabs?

As I have come to expect, the response was D E A D    S I L E N C E.

A Small Break in the Silence

One of the places cabs like to queue up in Hamilton is at the designated taxi stand just outside the GO terminal at 36 Hunter St. E. The City has allocated four spaces for cabs to wait for bus and train passengers. Even before Uber, the city had issued too many taxi licenses. Therefore, those four spaces are not nearly enough to accommodate all of the policy-idled cabs that line up, on Hunter St. east of John for one of the coveted legal spots at the stand.

It was Tuesday, November 28, 2017 at approximately 7:30 P.M. when one of the City's white law enforcement SUV's showed up at the designated cab stand at the GO, and cornered one of the cabs waiting there. Suddenly, the other three coveted parking spots became vacant.

Not a single cab parked on the east side of John moved across John to occupy one of the now vacant spots. The sight of those white SUVs strikes fear into the hearts of Hamilton's cab drivers these days. The slightest flaw, like a glowing "check engine" light is often enough to have the cab pulled off the road until the problem is fixed. The driver loses even more income. The owners also lose time and money as they must now drop everything and try to get the cab back on the road, lest some faulty O2 sensor jeopardizes public safety. The icing on the cake, of course, is that while this harassment is going on, the exempt Uber cabs continue to swirl around them, unhindered, like buzzards cleaning the last pieces of flesh from the carcass of the once vibrant taxi economy.

When it appeared the mobile enforcement officer (MEO) had finished with the cab he had detained, and it looked like he was going to cross John St. and accost the hapless hacks sitting back there, I left. I was willing to sacrifice my position in line, and extend the waiting time before my next fare, rather than risk being yanked off the road, or getting fined for one of the encyclopedic list of finable violations contained in the bylaw as it applies to non-exempt taxicabs. I circled around the block, but I guess the rest of my fellow drivers all had the same idea, because when I got back to the GO station all of cabs were gone and I was able to slide into the first spot.

It seems the MEO has already caught on to this cat-and-mouse game, because he also drove around the block and swooped down on me from behind. There was no escape. For whatever reason, I was not cited with any violation even though there is probably not one single cab operating in Hamilton that is in full compliance. So I took the opportunity to dig for an answer to the question I had sent to City officials just three days prior.

Me: How many Uber cabs have you inspected, by the way?

MEO: We're actually doing a blitz on those guys this Friday and Saturday.

In other words, the answer to my question was "none." But a blitz was planned. He said if I visited Hess Village on Friday and Saturday, I would see him and two of his officers doing a "full out" blitz on them. I speculate that he was a relatively green MEO by the way he tried to assure me that the MEO's were driving around, and actually trying to "help" us by trying to make "us" safe. Yeah, "I'm from the government and I am here to help you." Going by actions, rather than words, it would appear that most of the cabbies who scoot away from the scene whenever an MEO show's up fear the harm that the City government might inflict on them far more than the extreme danger that might occur should they have a failed O2 sensor or loose gas cap.

MEO: What can I do? The only thing I can do is make sure they are following all the guidelines that were set out for them.

As the conversation progressed, he informed me that the MEO's would be looking for Uber drivers that are not supposed to be driving the vehicle, I.E. people who are not the person using the Uber taxicab dispatch app. He also stated that he would be looking for Uber drivers who "are picking up hails, which means waving people down." Talk about chasing ghosts, especially if the white MEO SUV's are seen in the area. Talk about a sting operation that was hatched right out of the pages of Monty Python. In my forty year span in Hamilton's taxi business I have only seen two instances of cab drivers "waving down" random passers by in an attempt to solicit business. Both were very recent. One was a Toronto taxi driver fishing for a passenger for his return trip. The other was an Uber driver, or alleged Uber driver who recently tried to scoop up a young woman who was trying to hail passing cabs from the front door of the GO.

MEO: We're trying to enforce that they have stickers on the back. It's in the bylaw that they should. (and also) We're going to take the numbers of Uber cabs that are driving around without stickers and then go to Uber and (demurely?) ask them why those cars don't have stickers.

In other words, there will be no tickets issued to Uber drivers who have ignored the bylaw as it relates to the stickers. And of course, none of them will be pulled off the road.

So I guess it comes down to how Uber will rule on this sticker issue and whether Hamilton's politicians will comply with Uber's business model. Their performance to date indicates that the politicians will toe the Uber line.

After all, if Uber had to follow the same laws that apply to non-Uber taxis, how could the Uber business model succeed? And what would happen to the City's six cent per trip dividend?

The systemic incentives tip the scales against the non-exempt taxi operators. It's Kindergarten simple.

For my part, the prospect of having to work my shifts in constant fear that the City's Taxi Gestapo will swoop down on me at any moment and impose further barriers to my efforts to avoid poverty have turned what once used to be a job with which I had a love/hate relationship into an unambiguous nightmare. I almost wish I had diabetes.

Papers, please?

MADD Canada Whoring for $Uber$

Distracted driving is gaining increasing attention as a contender for preventable death and injuries on the roads. MADD Canada is obviously being very selective about the kind of impaired driving they oppose. Drivers impaired by alcohol are demonized, while drivers impaired by Uber's "Distractive Technology," are encouraged and promoted by MADD Canada in exchange for cash.

Right, MADD. Encourage parents to tell their kids it's safe to ride with a bunch of inexperienced, GPS addled, fly-by-night, amateur taxi drivers. As both a parent, and a taxi driver, I can offer this advice to parents who would place their trust in Uber to get their kids home safe: Don't Buy It. The thought of some naive parent advising their kid to "take an Uber" evokes in me in the same reaction I would get I heard a parent telling one of their kids to eat glass.

If there were an organization called, "Drunk Drivers of Canada," (DDC) which purported to accept only well trained, responsible drunk drivers, with no testing, no trainining, so long as they own a car and pay a membership fee, and kick some $$$ back to MADD, no doubt MADD Canada would be happy to partner up with DDC too.

Shows you what MADD Canada is really about.

MADD Canada and Uber Canada fight impaired driving.

The saddest part of all of this is that the destruction of viable, full time, professional taxi driving occupations brought on by Uber and its sycophantic politicians has resulted in an exodus of experienced drivers from the non-exempt taxi sector as well. This only compounds the risks to the public.

Meanwhile, the City of Hamilton hires a crew of "Mobile Enforcement Officers," to run around the city making sure the taxis don't have glowing "check engine" lights.


"More than 3,470 lives were claimed due to distracted driving in 2015, according to statistics furnished by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Taking your eyes off the road for seconds at 55 mph is like driving the length of a football field blindfolded, the agency said."

Hit and Run on Main St. E. Near Holton Ave. S. caught on dashcam.

Dec 5, 2017, 8:10 P.M.

Is It Safe to Drive with the Check Engine Light On?

It is unlikely that you are at risk, but your car is.

Puke Advice

What happens in a taxi, including Uber taxis, stays in a taxi... including residuals from unpleasant body effluents.

"About 2-3 months a go, a drunk rider took a piss on the back seat of my car. When asked for a cleaning fee, Uber only gave me $150. Needless to say, the piss was dried and cleaned by other riders sitting on top of it. I don't know of any professional that would clean the seat for just $150."

See more here.

Comedy Segment Fake News with Fred Eisenberger

Where is Matthew Green?

Public Lies, Private Truths: Why Communism FELL & Trump WON

Hamilton Project Zero

King Street 2020.

Other News

"Three university policies are cited by the signees as evidence that Peterson’s termination is justified. The first is the Statement on Prohibited Discrimination and Discriminatory Harassment, which reads, “The University aspires to achieve an environment free of prohibited discrimination and harassment and to ensure respect for the core values of freedom of speech, academic freedom and freedom of research.” The letter alleges that Peterson’s conduct “constitutes an obstacle” to that aspiration."

See: Hundreds sign open letter to U of T admin calling for Jordan Peterson’s termination

Meta is Just as Evil and Dishonest as TIME.

TIME PULLS Trump Assassination Photo Meta PULLS coverage of the coverage And man, they were right on top ...