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2 Things You Need To Know About Calgary's Cab Crisis Debate

07/25/2014 04:39 EDT | Updated 09/24/2014 05:59 EDT
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Calgary seems to never run out of very highly opinionated and polarized debates over policies set by Council or the Mayor, both current and former. Remember the Peace Bridge debate? Hardly did that pass from memory when the Giant Blue Ring fiasco commenced. Then came the $52-million tax surplus claw-back. They are returning it back to you folks. You may rest your pitchforks now. Then came the king of all debates in the recent past months on the dedicated bicycle lane proposal. I suppose you want to raise your pitchfork again, eh!

I find it entertaining to read the different opinions from all sides. Healthy debate is a sign of a very vibrant city. So in that regard, I am glad people have concerns to raise on whatever side of a policy in question. The flavor of this month of course is Calgary's Taxi/Livery service and alleged monopoly by the incumbents. This time however, I have something to contribute to the debate over whether there is a shortage of cabs resulting in long wait times in this City or whether there is a true monopoly that prevents new entrants in to the market.

If you are not aware of aforementioned crisis (you may be a recent entrant to the City) I suggest you first search "Calgary Taxi Cab Debate" online and educate yourself on this subject before reading further.

I do agree with the argument that there should fair competition in this industry with competitive wages and good working conditions that eventually benefits the riders, the driver, the operators, and the City. No doubt about that part.

However, lately the media reports pertaining to this debate is particularly skewed towards the viewpoint that new entrants must be allowed in at whatever cost because the current cab crisis shortage is a huge problem in this city.

It is not!

The shortage and long wait times for cabs is indeed a problem that does occur on certain occasions referred to as 'Peak Times' in the industry. Think public holidays, game nights, concerts and festivals.

It does not occur ALWAYS!

In all my years in this city, I have never had to wait for more than half hour for a cab for rides to/from the airport, downtown, or the suburbs except once. That once was on Christmas Eve in 2013 where the wait was close to 2.5 hours. That is an anomaly and not a normality.

That being said, if the City eases restrictions on new plates for new drivers on our roads, that would be even better. However, the concern I have is the skewed opinion that allowing new players is good and best solution for the City as it benefits consumers. I disagree with the part that it is only good and there is no bad. So this is where I raise my concerns about it so that the citizenry is aware of the dual nature of any solution to a problem.

Have you taken a closer look at your cab driver lately? More often than not, he/she is likely to be a person of minority and a first generation immigrant. Arrived in Canada with family and has formal training in medical/legal/engineering/education/accounting/whatever profession in overseas home country. Turned down for qualified jobs because of lack of "Canadian experience". The settlement money starts to deplete rapidly. Gets desperate and starts looking in to alternate sources of income. Learns from friends and families who arrived prior about opportunities in the service sector of security services, tax and limo service, retail, janitorial. Resorts to the new vocation to support family and provide a better living for the offspring.

Lets look at this from another angle. So you, the citizenry, first welcome the immigrant with open arms to this country, then reject him/her over and over and over again for lack "relevant" skills, which eventually pushes him/her in to alternate professions that most probably you would not do yourself or want your brethren or offspring to be doing either. Oh by the way, the new vocation that this person is in didn't come easy or cheap. That person probably had to borrow funds from friends and family, go through several hoops to secure the license to operate, then work grueling hours to pay back the funds while at same time supporting the household. And just as things were getting settled in that person's life, you decide to pull the carpet from under his/her feet by flooding the market with new entrants who you feel will better serve you and your needs and for the overall benefit of this city.

What's that you say? You don't care, you just want your ride and get to wherever you want to go. Like right NOW!

Ok, well lets look at it from your point of view then. So you have heard of some super cool hipster app that solves this problem. You hear about some new players from overseas who are disrupting this industry and you so want to see it happen in this city. It is healthy competition. Competition is good for everybody, right?Well have you done a full search on this so called disruption? Perhaps you should try terms like "Problems with......." or "Concerns with......."! Maybe you will learn things that might surprise you. Particularly about the part on "healthy competition".

Furthermore, did you think through the part about having more drivers and more livery vehicles on our roads. More vehicles means more emissions. Suddenly those dedicated bike lanes look redundant. In fact, if you so badly wanted those bike lanes in the first place, why are you waiting to hail a cab instead of biking to wherever you want to go? Of particular concern about this new business model is the ability to make nearly anybody earn a living by driving passengers around. You hear your buddy is making quick and easy dough driving around folks in town in his souped up truck. You want to do the same. But you have a problem. You don't have car. You only ride a bike, remember. So you go get one. It is 0% financing any case so no biggie there. And there you are with yet another vehicle on the road spewing emissions. So much for your carbon footprint reduction goals for this millennium.

I am not trying to be cynical here or objecting to having new players in the industry. What I am concerned is the vehement singular viewpoint on the benefits of having the entrants and "disrupting" the "empire" as it exists today. Perhaps next time you are in the cab, ask the driver about his story. He will tell you about the great Canadian dream.