RICHMOND (NEWS 1130) – Many British Columbians are counting down the days until ride-hailing services finally arrive in the province and that includes at least one unexpected person: a local cabbie.
The Richmond taxi driver says many cabbies can’t wait for Uber and Lyft to come.
“It’s going to come sooner or later. So owners are very afraid. Operators or drivers … a good 70 or 80 per cent are waiting for it to come,” said the cabbie, who wants to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
He says he’s excited for ride-hailing to come to B.C. for several reasons.
“Number one, I pay for my car. Let’s say, I pay $100 a day plus gas. I work or don’t work — I make $1 or $1,000, I’m sick — I pay the $100. It’s a commitment. I look at it as if I’m leasing a shop. The lease is there, whether you work or not,” he told NEWS 1130.
He says he’s at the mercy of the company, “with no logic.”
“The owners control it… It’s basically ‘my way or the highway’ … If I wear jeans to drive, I get suspended.”
He believes almost all drivers feel the same way he does. “I would say 99 per cent do.”
The cabbie says the owners, on the other hand, “They’re afraid. They’re dreading Uber coming and they’re fighting it with everything they can.”
"It's gonna come sooner or later, so owners, yes, they are very afraid. Operators or drivers, well I guess I would say a good 70 to 80 % are waiting for it to come," says the cabbie, who's been giving people rides around Richmond for 8 years.
— Monika Gul (@MonikaGul) January 11, 2019
The driver says he’s worked for Richmond Taxi for eight years.
He tells us he’s already registered for Uber, has plans to get a new SUV, and looks to take on driving for ride-hailing full-time once it’s here in B.C.
“Other drivers eat in their car, their cars smell … They don’t even say hi to you.”
The framework for ride-hailing in B.C. is still being worked out, but that doesn’t worry this driver. He says he wants to stand out from some taxi drivers who may offer a less-favourable experience in the car.
“I’ve seen other drivers — they eat in the car, their cars smell. Some of them don’t even speak English, unfortunately. Would you prefer going with someone you can communicate with or [someone who] is on the phone on the trip for 20 minutes? They don’t even say hi to you.”
But he admits there are legitimate concerns about a possible lack of vetting of drivers with some ride-hailing services.
“If the driver I’m with is not vetted, doesn’t have the proper papers — maybe they have a criminal record — even as a man, I would be afraid getting in with someone like that. But you don’t know what they’re going to do. So, it’s a Catch-22.”
He says as a cab driver, he has to go through a criminal record check every two years. “If I have a speck on my file, I can’t drive. I lose my license, that’s it. But with [ride-hailing], I heard, they don’t do the government check … not the proper vetting.”
For its part, Lyft says potential drivers must pass a criminal record checks and conducts annual background checks. It adds the company reserves the right to disqualify a driver if anything comes up that could compromise safety.
It adds a driving record check is also required.
WATCH: Ride-hailing introduced
It’s no secret cab drivers take a lot of flack in B.C., with frustration continuing over the lack of ride-hailing in the province.
The driver NEWS 1130 spoke with says it’s a tough job, with misunderstanding from many passengers and cab companies looking out for their own best interests — not the drivers’.
“They don’t represent any of us. They represent the owners, the shareholders who own the company — own everything,” he said.
He claims cab companies have threatened drivers who have plans to jump ship. He says last year, his paycheck was withheld until he signed a document stating if he was eventually hired by a company like Uber, he would be fired.
The driver is frustrated, as he feels taxi companies are perceived to represent the drivers — but he argues that’s not true. “For us, nobody represents us. [The companies] represent the owners, only.”
What taxi drivers wish customers knew
The cab driver tells us one thing many people don’t seem to understand is when they see an empty cab go by, seemingly without acknowledging them trying to flag them down for a ride, it’s not because they don’t want to pick them up.
“When I pick up people from Richmond … and we drop off downtown, by law, we cannot pick up from downtown. We have to leave downtown empty. It’s illegal. It’s a $1,000 ticket plus a $1,000 in suspension. So basically, it’s a $2,000 endeavour just to pick up a $30 trip coming back to Richmond,” he said.
“It’s Vancouver city turf and only Vancouver cabs can pick up [there]. Likewise, they cannot pick up outside their jurisdiction area.”
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He says this presents a problem for customers when the bars let out in downtown Vancouver over the weekend.
“There’s something like 30,000 or 40,000 people that want to go home. Vancouver cabs are busy [and] they don’t want to leave Vancouver. They don’t want to go on the long trips because they’ve got to come back empty. Plus, they make better money by doing $10 and $20 trips in Vancouver.”
He believes if these jurisdiction rules weren’t in place, then up to 70 per cent of people waiting would be served much faster.
“Six months ago … I dropped off people downtown. There was this person and they flagged me — I was empty — but I said no. They started swearing. I said, ‘I’m sorry. I wish I can.'”
The cabbie hopes when ride-hailing comes to B.C., those restrictions will be lifted. “With Uber, there is talk about removing those jurisdictions and those turfs, so wherever you are, you can pick up.”
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include details provided by Lyft.