If you hear, "Peace is assured," get ready for war.
If you hear, "The economy is healthy," get ready for a crash.
And if you hear, "We are going to level the playing field," hold onto something solid.
We've been hearing a lot over the last year about leveling the playing field in Hamilton between the three taxi brokerages now operating here.
In the old "horse and buggy" days, anyone who wanted to compete in the taxi business was required to abide by a set of rules created by the local government. If anyone tried to pull an Uber in those days he would have been fined repeatedly until he stopped.
Everything changed when Uber breezed into town.
At first, many were thrown off by the preposterous claim that Uber wasn't in the business of taxiing people around. They said they were just a technology company. Move along. Nothing to see here.
It would be like Blue Line Taxi changing its name to "Blue Line Bakery" or Hamilton Cab changing its name to "Hamilton Meat Packing and Entertainment Booking," without changing anything else they do, and then expecting to ignore all of the bylaws governing taxis with impunity.
I doubt that Blue Line or Hamilton Cab would be able to get away with flouting the taxi bylaw if they changed their names so why should Uber be any different?
It's a fascinating issue.
A bizarre article appeared in Hamilton's newspaper the other day. (Hamilton rules would leave Uber, taxis on uneven playing field. April Apr 21, 2016.)
Assuming Matthew Van Dongen's report is accurate I would like to address some of the statements made in that report.
Really? Who is running the show down at city hall these days, Uber? When did they get elected?
And since when do the bylaws of Hamilton hinge upon whether Uber or any other taxi brokerage for that matter, agrees to follow them?
Imagine if it said, "The city will try to hold Hans Wienhold to as many new rules as it thinks that big-mouthed cab driver will actually agree to follow."
Unbelievable? Yeah, I think so.
What has Uber got that I ain't got?
Let's move on.
"Leendertse introduced councilors to new draft regulations for ride-hailing, which the public can comment on this summer, that include separate licensing fees for so-called "personal transportation providers." A bylaw would go to council for approval in the fall."
Leendertse introduced councilors to new draft regulations for taxi driving, which the public can comment on this summer, that include separate licensing fees for "cabbies working for the Uber taxi brokerage."
In other words, the new regulations should tilt the playing field in favor of Uber taxis in order to drive the older brokerages out of business.
This is the kind of stuff that now passes itself off as public policy.
It's also the kind of stuff you read on infowars.
"Why can't we just put the words 'ride-sharing' into the existing (taxi) bylaw?"
Yes. Why not?
And to avoid any confusion, replace the word "taxi" wherever it appears in the bylaw.
Would the executives at Uber allow it?
"They should have to come under the same umbrella (of rules) that we have been facing for the past 80, 90 years," said 32-year veteran ride-sharer Jagir Multani.
"That would leave the city with a "wild west scenario," said Leendertse, who estimated there are around 500 Uber drivers who would be unable to abide by bylaw provisions that include obtaining a legal taxi plate."
Since when does the City of Hamilton work so hard to accommodate unlicensed cab drivers? In addition to the 500 Uber taxi drivers, there are also about 1000 other taxi drivers working at Blue Line and Hamilton Cab who do not have taxi plates. That hasn't prevented any of *them* from engaging in ride-sharing. Indeed, the extra 500 Uber cabs now plying the streets of Hamilton have done enormous damage to the incomes of the 1000 other cabbies in Hamilton.
What about them?
Again, why should Uber cabbies be exempt from the same rules that apply to all other cabbies?
This all actually quite funny, especially in the light of Mr. Leendertse's next statement,
"So they would just ignore (the bylaw) … and it becomes an enforcement issue."
Imagine that. An enforcement issue. Isn't it part of Mr. Leendertse's job? Is he saying that he can't deal with enforcement issues, therefore the city should cave-in to Uber?
Two years ago taxi licenses were being traded for about $200,000 each. At that valuation, Hamilton's 447 licenses had a combined value of about $90 million dollars. By comparison, Mr. Leendertse's proposal grants the $62 Billion dollar Uber corporation the equivalent of an unlimited number of taxi plates for the ridiculous sum of $50,000. That is Uber paying about .005 cents on the dollar for its licenses.
It reminds me of the old story about the purchase of Manhattan from the natives for some glass beads, except that story has been challenged. This one is for real.
A necessary byproduct of this sellout to Uber, of course, is that the 447 non-Uber taxi licenses become worth less than a handful of glass beads. Those 447 taxi licenses represent the lifetime investments of hundreds of Hamilton taxi drivers.
Get this one,
Uber rates would remain unregulated while the other two taxi companies would still be forced to charge double the current Uber rate. It's not hard to predict which brokerage will win this game.
There are more proposals that also act to tilt the Hamilton taxi market in favor of a complete takeover by Uber.
Particularly galling is the recommendation that the mandatory driver training would disappear for taxi drivers. I have been one of the strongest opponents of the mandatory driver training program since the beginning and I have said so repeatedly, however, dumping the school as a bone to the non-Uber taxi drivers in order for the city to comply with Uber's business model is absolutely the LAST reason it should be done.
It's just another disgraceful example of systems set up by the government, like the equity taxi license system itself, into which innocent citizens invest their time and money and which can be summarily swept under the rug, or thrown under the bus if you like, at the whim of politicians and bureaucrats who have zero personal stake in any of the decisions they make.
The article quotes an incomprehensible statement,
"It's not perfect, said Coun. Sam Merulla, but it's better than "driving the industry underground" and leaving both riders and drivers with "zero protection.""
I really admire Sam Merulla for his ability to speak the unvarnished truth without having to impart any real meaning or substance.
He got that much right.