Uber celebrated the first anniversary of its UberX ride service in Toronto this week with the release of some data about its service.
Since launching on Sept. 14, 2014, Toronto’s UberX “driver-partners” made some $50 million and drove more than 34 million kilometres, Uber said on its Toronto blog.
“Since then, we’ve not only given everyone in the city access to a safe, reliable, and affordable ride, but we’ve provided a flexible earning opportunity to more than 16,000 people in the GTA,” the blog states. “Our partners have not only earned a respectable income, they’ve covered a lot of ground.”
The city of Toronto would probably dispute that “safe and reliable” claim. It has a notice up warning that “the City is concerned that the UberX service may pose a serious safety risk to the public, including those who are signing on as drivers.”
But when it comes to income, that $50-million works out to an average of $3,125 per driver. Uber says that number is so low because so many of its drivers work part-time; more than half work less than 10 hours a week, the company says.
Though the company doesn't have numbers on how many drivers work full-time, it estimates a driver can earn $23 per hour. So if someone were to drive full-time, that would work out to some $48,000 in gross earnings.
Uber says the number of drivers is increasing constantly, with "several thousand" new drivers signed up in Toronto in just the past few weeks. But the company doesn't think that will drive down wages. "Income opportunities will continue to increase as the number of riders grows exponentially," a spokesperson told HuffPost Canada.
The taxi industry says Uber is driving down incomes for its own drivers. Frustrated that municipal authorities haven’t taken a harder line on what they see as an illegal taxi service, cabbies have taken to suing the ride service. A Toronto-area cabbie launched a class-action lawsuit against the company in July, seeking $400 million for lost income, on behalf of licensed drivers in Ontario.
Another class-action lawsuit, launched in Edmonton this week, seeks $150 million and accuses the company of price-fixing and violating traffic laws.
That frustration has been boiling over into confrontations between UberX drivers and cabbies. One such incident was caught on cellphone camera recently. The video shows what appears to be an Ottawa cabbie verbally assaulting an UberX driver and passenger outside the Fairmont Chateau Laurier.
“You think I'm joking? If I see you again you are dead meat. Go follow the law, get a real job,” the purported cabbie says. Later he tells the passenger: “You take a real taxi, you f--king cheapskate.”
Municipalities like Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal have run raids on Uber drivers, charging them with violating traffic laws requiring licences to drive for commercial purposes.
But Toronto appears poised to become the first city in Canada to change its regulations so that UberX could operate legally. City staff earlier this month recommended the creation of a new class of industry under the city’s by-laws -- “transportation network companies.” Some 60 U.S. cities have already created this classification to deal with Uber.
Though the staff report didn’t outline how UberX would be regulated, it’s assumed the regulations would be lighter than those faced by taxi companies. For this reason, the taxi industry has come out against the proposal.
“These recommendations will spell the end of Toronto’s taxi industry as we know it,” Sajid Mughal, president of iTaxi Workers, said in a statement.
Sam Moini, spokesperson for the Toronto Taxi Alliance, said the proposal would “set up an incredibly lop-sided system which would saddle law-abiding taxi drivers with onerous regulations and expenses while UberX drivers are allowed to skim off the easiest and most lucrative business.”
But Toronto Mayor John Tory points to a recent survey showing a majority of residents see Uber as being distinct from taxi services, as the reason for introducing different regulations.
“They’re different beasts,” he said, as quoted at the Globe and Mail. “The objective is to make sure that while they’re regulated in different ways, that they’re regulated equitably vis-à-vis one another so that both can compete.”
The same survey showed that about 65 per cent of Uber riders were satisfied with the service they received, compared to less than 30 per cent of taxi riders who said the same.
This story has been updated from its original version, to reflect comments from Uber.