The Urbanite – Jon Liedtke – Nov. 20, 2014
The City of Windsor needs to allow more competition in the cab industry. Following typically horrible wait times on Halloween and equipped with the foreknowledge the same will be experienced on Christmas, New Year’s Eve, fireworks night and virtually every other night massive amounts of people need cabs, it’s time to start a dialogue about cabbing in Windsor.
According to a December 2012 CBC News article, the City of Windsor has 218 licensed cabs, with 198 belonging to Veteran’s Cab. This disproportional number of licenses in the hands of Veteran’s Cab is a disservice to citizens as it allows for the cab company to operate without recourse as they have no fear of losing business to competition.
While there are many cab drivers who are considerate, passionate about what they do, and deserving of commendation, my encounters unfortunately have been mired by poor service as a result of complacency. This leaves customers in the dire need of meaningful competition. Through holding the vast majority of the licenses, Veteran’s Cab effectively operates without competition whatsoever.
It is for this reason I find it entirely unsurprising to learn from readers, friends and family that their experiences have been equally as troubling as mine have been: an overall lack of customer service demonstrated from the dispatcher and drivers; the dispatcher refusing to take complaints or identify themselves; drivers refusing to provide service to certain customers; cabs not arriving on time, or at all.
The list of problems goes on and it’s hardly isolated to the cab industry. Take any business and allow it to operate as a virtual monopoly or as a quasi-cartel through an arbitrary limit of licenses imposed by the state, and the businesses which ‘luck out’ and receive a license need not improve service as there is no fear of losing customers. Indeed, business is guaranteed.
What makes it all the more frustrating is knowing there is competition in other jurisdictions. Currently Uber & Lyft — technology companies which connect passengers with individual drivers who want to offer rideshares — are making waves in many communities because their businesses operate outside of the traditional cab model.
Uber maintains they are not a cab company but rather a technology company, and for this reason they believe themselves to be exempt from requiring cab licenses.
But the issue isn’t about Uber or Veteran’s Cab, but rather is a broader problem: interference in the free market, in this case, limiting the number of cabs allowed to operate in the city.
If the City of Windsor were to allow more cab licenses, there would be more options for customers, which would increase competition, and cause the various cab companies — Veteran’s Cab, Uber, Lyft and the like included — to improve their services.
Uber’s model is based on demand, so the same ride from Point A to B could widely vary in price depending on demand. If there is more demand, the price increases, and with less demand, the price decreases. I welcome this.
Until the City of Windsor (and our provincial and federal governments) invest heavily in public transit to enhance access, I implore council to consider either granting far more cab licenses or to allow meaningful competition in the industry.
There is an ongoing argument against these new cab alternatives about safety, insurance, and the protection of high paying union jobs (this is Windsor after all) and I hope to put to rest two points: first, regarding safety and insurance, there is no reason to suggest Uber or other alt-transit methods shouldn’t be held to the same level of scrutiny as cabs currently are; second, the protection of high paying union jobs should never come at the expense of customer service or service generally. Unions provide immense support for their workers and society broadly, however, while unions exist to serve the worker, businesses exist to serve the customer.
Competition is the only meaningful business model in the free market, and what we have isn’t competition. Competition increases service, decreases price, and provides more and better options for customers. Why would we settle for anything less?
Jonathon Liedtke is the managing editor of The Urbanite, Windsor’s alternative newspaper. He is also a member of Windsor’s “Punk with Horns” band The Nefidovs, and as such, is committed to enhancing and sustaining the arts community.