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Uber Brings Out The Best In My City

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An open letter to Mayor Jim Watson and Ottawa City Councillors:

I've been encouraged to write an advocacy letter supporting Uber's continued operation in Ottawa. I've been encouraged by friends, drivers and Uber itself. But I can't do that.

I use Uber several times a week, but I am not sufficiently informed to advocate a credible position that navigates complexities of insurance law or reconciles what to do when disruptive technologies erode the value of a retirement asset such as a hardworking taxi driver's medallion.

And so I'd like to tell my story of how I use Uber. I want to tell my story because there is nothing exceptional in it: this is a "uniquely common" story. Once I've crossed this threshold, I'll let you decide whether the following three things are enough to balance the trade-offs:

  1. Uber has encouraged me to see more of Ottawa than I ever would have
  2. Uber has made owning a car unnecessary for now
  3. Uber has allowed me to meet some inspirational people

1. The City
Like many people living in Ottawa, I wasn't born here. I experienced how easily years can go by without visiting the museums and cultural attractions this city has to offer. In contrast, since riding with Uber, it has become easy to go to a museum on a Thursday evening or Rockcliffe Park on a Saturday afternoon.

Similarly, my fiancée and I used Uber to criss-cross the city looking at wedding venues. We were also able to go to the Clarkson Cup -- buses don't run from the Canadian Tire Centre after non-major events on Sunday evenings, but Uber does.

(Note: I'll never take an Uber to a REDBLACKS game -- the only way to get in the spirit is to squeeze into a bus with 75 other fans.)

Because I don't need a car, I can rent out a parking space in the Byward Market and donate the money to a local women's shelter.

2. The Savings
You may ask, couldn't I have done all of this with taxis? That's a valid question. In contrast to this letter, a polished advocacy letter would be able to provide rational reasons. Perhaps Uber's lowered cost, ease and speed, or customer service. All I can say is that I lived in this city for years before riding with Uber and I did none of that. Since riding with Uber I've done all of that.

I am frequently tempted to get a car -- I know myself well enough that I would take it everywhere. That's what I did when I lived in Edmonton. But now, I walk virtually everywhere because I can use Uber when I need.

Because I don't need a car, I can rent out a parking space in the Byward Market and donate the money to a local women's shelter. As well, my fiancée who is more environmentally conscious than I am reminds me that lowering emissions from vehicles just might be a good thing, too.

... he wants to serve the country he chose. I am hard-pressed to think of a time I felt as proud to be a Canadian.

3. The People
This city is filled with incredible people. I am inspired by so many of the Uber drivers who describe that their reason for driving is that it's a way to better their lives.

One of my first Uber drivers overcame incredible odds to become the manager at a Boston Pizza; now he supplements this income with Uber, working a combined 70-hour week to achieve his dream of owning a Boston Pizza franchise.

Just the other day I climbed into Uber dressed in my military uniform. The driver asks for my advice: he recently became a Canadian citizen and wants to serve in our Canadian Armed Forces. He is finding the recruitment process complicated and is looking for helpful suggestions, because he wants to serve the country he chose. I am hard-pressed to think of a time I felt as proud to be a Canadian.

I am pleased to add my voice to other Uber passengers who experience substantial benefits riding with Uber. I recognize we live in a two worlds simultaneously -- one of traditional taxis and one of Uber ridesharing -- and we are relying on you, Mayor Watson and Ottawa City Councillors, to execute the challenging task of balancing these two worlds.

This decision is about more than just rates, fares, discounts, surges and other financial questions. The decision is about what we can do together to promote the things we think are the best about our city. And I believe that Uber has a role in helping us promote those.

For your consideration.

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