20 Aug Ridesharing in Kingston
Recently, the Kingston Area Taxi Commission approved a new bylaw that will change the way ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft operate in Kingston. The bylaw limits the new number of cars those companies can put on the road and charges much higher annual fees to the ridesharing companies than to local operators. The KATC operates independently of city hall, so they are able to set their own bylaws. One city councillor sits on the commission.
I’ve never used a ridesharing service in Kingston, but I have on two or three occasions in Toronto and New York City. To be fair, I also haven’t taken a cab in Kingston for several years. Vehicles and drivers aside, the Uber app experience can be quite appealing. They give you a quote before you book the ride, you don’t have to wait in the car when the ride is done to get change or wait for the debit machine to do its thing, and there’s a decent chance there’s a car nearby if you aren’t departing from a busy area. All that said, Uber’s drivers and vehicles are generally far less regulated than standard taxis, many people have legitimate safety concerns, and the number of controversies surrounding the company is pretty staggering. Lyft has its problems as well. Traditional taxis in Kingston are most certainly not without their critics and stigmas, just take a look through some of the Reddit threads on the issues.
In my view, Uber and Lyft qualify as taxis just the same as Amey’s and Modern, so they should all be held to one high standard when it comes to insurance, maintenance and quality, dress codes, rates, fees, etc. If our local operators want to do a better job of competing with these companies, they need to look carefully beyond the app itself and find out how to change the way the public, especially the younger public, views them. Along the same line, ridesharing companies still have a very long way to go when it comes to background checks on drivers and insurance requirements.
This new bylaw, which you can read here and comes into effect on September 15, in my opinion goes too far to stifle competition. I would have pushed to reduce the barriers to entry to other companies. We all want Kingston riders to have a good and safe experience while travelling around our city, and the best way to do that is to work toward a level playing field, and one that says Kingston is open to new ideas.