EDITORIAL: Ride flailing

After years of stop-and-go political theatre, app-based ride hailing appears to be nearly here, with the province finalizing the rules and preparing to take applications from operators next month.

For those who have used services like Uber or Lyft while visiting other cities, the appeal is obvious. With a few taps of your smartphone screen, a driver quickly arrives and drops you off, cheap.

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But the province has set the minimum fares on par with taxis, and the tech companies will be able to raise prices during peak periods as demand swells. And unlike taxis, the government is not putting limits on the size of a company’s fleet or where they can drive, much to the chagrin of cab companies.

Lyft is intending to apply and is already recruiting drivers. Uber is still on the fence.

A good compromise leaves everyone mad.

We’ll be one of the last North American cities to get the service, so we can learn from others what to expect. Riding hailing brings convenience but also heavy baggage. There have been multiple peer-reviewed studies that have shown ride hailing means more traffic, so when congestion inevitably gets worse, we can’t say we were not warned. But everyone’s got a horror story about the time they waited 40 minutes in the rain for a cab.

All of the political turmoil and bickering that got us to this point may end up being for nothing, however. In their second-quarter earnings this year, Uber reported $5.24 billion in losses, and that’s with paying their drivers a pittance.

Without a profitable business model, they’ve got as much of a future on our streets as the horse and buggy.

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