Innovation no reason to quash Kingston Uber

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Stifling innovation out of a fear of change and a refusal to adapt is no way to regulate an industry.

On June 27, the Kingston Area Taxi Commission passed a bylaw allowing the city to regulate transportation networking companies like Uber and Lyft in the same way as traditional taxi companies. However, Ubers are not taxis, and applying old rules to a new idea impedes its ability to grow.

To conflate the two is to drive one out of town. 

The bylaw, set to be enforced Sept. 15, will implement an annual license renewal fee that requires drivers to pay out of pocket. Drivers will also have to pay for their own police checks, and all cars will be required to be under seven years old.

Add a $40,000 start-up fee and a $35,000 annual fee, and it’s clear many companies promoting safe and accessible transportation in Kingston will be restricted from operating at an optimal capacity.

This threatens both student safety and the potential for innovation and growth in the city.

Ubers, unlike taxis, contain GPS trackers and allow you to report various factors through the app, from lost items to complaints. The easy accessibility of the app also protects students from drunk driving and a vulnerable walk home. If you can’t find a taxi at night, you can always press a button and call an Uber.

Mark Greenwood, Amey’s Taxi owner, argues this bylaw “level[s] the playing field.” But there’s nothing fair about wielding power to diminish your competition—particularly if they’ve adapted where you haven’t. Imposing a system that proves itself ineffective is outdated and counterproductive. 

Dozens of other Ontarian jurisdictions have regulated Uber to protect the taxi industry while allowing Uber to serve consumers.

For instance, Ottawa requires Uber to pay an annual license fee that allows them to operate independent from taxis. This distinction recognizes that all transportation networking companies deserve space in the market, and understands that competition drives innovation.

Uber and taxi drivers want the same thing: to provide a service and make a living. They are not mutually exclusive. As the market has evolved to include more options, consumers have benefitted from their ability to choose based on need, circumstance and safety. This matters most to Kingston community members.

The Kingston Area Taxi Commission suggests regulating Uber as if using its service is mandatory. If you’re not comfortable taking an Uber, you’re not required to do so. Rather than adapting their services to attract more consumers, taxis are seeking to limit their competition altogether.

The taxi industry’s inertia should not cost Kingston citizens and students their full range of choice.

Journal Editorial Board

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