North Toronto resident Dave Rudnar says he and his friends have all switched from taxis to the Uber ride-sharing service.
“It’s fantastic. It’s easy, it’s clean and I’ve never felt it to be dangerous,” Rudnar says.
He and his friends may be typical of midtown residents as as the UberX app has become very popular with residents since launching a year ago in Toronto, according to midtown councillor Josh Matlow.
Unlike York West councillor Giorgio Mammoliti who told Uber drivers to “get out” of his ward, Matlow says there is enough room in North Toronto for both taxis and ride-sharing services.
Safety is a priority for many users. With Uber, all of the information of the trip is recorded in its app, from the driver to the route to the license plate and customers can rate their drivers on a five-star scale afterwards. Drivers can also rate passengers.
The digital tracking of information and cashless transactions are why many Uber users, such as Lata Wadhwani, a North Toronto resident, and her friends also prefer Uber to taxis.
“It’s a slow shift [to Uber] but it’s shifting for sure,” says Wadhwani.
Sylvia Park is a Forest Hill resident who takes both Uber and taxis. Park likes Uber because it’s cheaper and more convenient. Uber passengers don’t have to carry money because everything is paid through the app.
However, when interviewed, Park was waiting for a taxi because she couldn’t figure out how to use Uber on her Blackberry.
Fellow Forest Hill resident Heather Stewart takes taxis because she doesn’t have a smartphone.
Stewart also agrees with midtown councillor Joe Mihevc who wants to add appropriate employment standards for UberX drivers. She says it’s not fair for cab drivers because of these fees and wants to make taxi licences cheaper to “level the playing field for the hard-working cabbies.”
Uber’s popularity has the taxi industry worried about lost business.
Matlow says the taxi drivers he’s spoken to in North Toronto have said they were “scared and concerned about their ability to earn a living and support their family in the future.”
Sajid Mughal, president of the iTaxiworkers Association, says he and many other taxi drivers have lost about 50 per cent of their business to Uber.
“I have around 400–500 drivers in our association and everyone is having the same complaint. Wait time in cabs increased and if we’re with a dispatch company, we’re not getting as many calls,” Mughal said.
Most Uber drivers are using the service to supplement their income, not as a full-time job.
Uber says of the 16,000 drivers in Toronto, many work part-time and more than half work fewer than 10 hours a week.