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Duffy’s Domain: hello, and…good-bye?

by John Duffy

Hello all. It has been a while. Much has gone on since I last spoke with you, so this is to bring you up to date with me personally, with the future of Taxi News and perhaps a bit of what I see to be the future of the taxi business in Toronto.

First, I have basically retired. I am almost 74 years old and work is no longer as much fun as it used to be, particularly as we are affected by Covid-19 and its fallout effects here in Toronto, in Canada and the world. I find I am simply lacking the energy to do the job covering this business I once had, and that you deserve. Plus, my wife is getting close to retirement (very close) and there are things she and I want to do together that regular work would prevent.

It is time to pass the torch. I have sold Taxi News and all rights to use the name to Rita Smith. Many of you in the taxi business already know of and her: for seven years in the 1990s, Rita was the Editor of Taxi News before she was recruited to other projects to which she could devote her considerable talents, including multiple positions in our provincial and federal governments.

Rita knows a lot about the Taxi industry and has been a defender and booster of the business for decades. She was hired as a communications consultant for a variety of taxi businesses, associations and suppliers, while never abandoning the interests of drivers and other frontline workers in the industry.

She is keenly aware, better than most perhaps, of the mutual dependence of all participants in the industry: without all components of the business being successful, no one thrives. One group needs the other and all will sink or swim together.

Rita also brings an energy and sensitivity to the process of doing honest and reliable journalism: she recognises there are almost always many sides and viewpoints to every issue and understands the critical value of treating and presenting as many sides to a given question fairly.

As media, our job is to present information you can rely on.  Then, based on your personal preferences, you can make up your own minds. It is not the media’s job to tell you what to think. You are smart. You can think for yourselves. But for that process to work, you need what we in the media should provide: unbiased and unvarnished facts, coupled with as wide a variety of opinion on any given issue as we can reasonably present to you for consideration.

I will assist Rita in any way I can: she has already said she would like to call on me from time to time. I may also do some writing for her. Perhaps a column, perhaps news stories. We will see.

I encourage our long time and incredibly loyal advertisers to return to the new online version of Taxi News, which can be updated and with greater frequency and detail than the traditional monthly print version could provide. Incorporated into the full, multi-media Road Warrior News site, I am utterly certain it will be an invaluable tool in reaching participants in what is still an immensely important business in this city.

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One final note: I now think I better understand why the City of Toronto was bending over backwards to accommodate the Ubers of the world, aside from the two facts that they are ridiculously fertile money generators and the City has thoroughly detested dealing with taxi issues for as long as I have been covering the business.

I read that Uber intends to move its world-wide headquarters to Toronto. Assuming this is true, our city fathers and mothers apparently were delighted at the prospect of the construction and long-term jobs, and potential tax revenues this move would bring.

Never mind the minor details that Uber’s business model foundation of classifying drivers using its platform is under assault world-wide. Never mind hat Uber is burning investor money daily by the truck load, and they say they may never be profitable (I wonder how long investors are going to put up with that unsustainable situation?). Never mind that once Uber and the others have destroyed long-standing taxi businesses with heavily subsidized, artificially low prices used to lure customers, they then jack their prices through the roof. These are exactly the things taxi people warned the City about 6-7 years ago, about which the city did not believe or did not care.

By the way, I am now even seeing consumer and government (not just hotel) push back against AirBnb and other services using the same model. Apparently at least some customers are not getting what they expected or thought they had paid for. Go figure.

I predict that sooner or later the Uber/”sharing”  business model will collapse. But the damage will have been done.

Enough for now. I wish you all the very best and please work with Rita to make her new venture with Taxi News successful for both her and you.