Monday, February 26, 2024
"We are all hoping to serve the same pie of customers, but the pie is not getting any bigger," an airport driver told Taxi News. Image: Taxi News
Opinion/ColumnRide Hailing newsTaxi industry news

GTAA: It’s déjà vu all over again

Does the wheel really need to be re-invented, again? And again?

UPDATE FEBRUARY 15/TAXI NEWS CORRECTION: “Alternative taxicab” in Schedule “B” Fees does not refer to rideshare vehicles; it refers to fully Electric Vehicles. Information on the conditions being offered to rideshare firms including Uber and Lyft has not been released.

RWN/Taxi News publisher Rita Smith

On the weekend, I wrote a column about the $16 million Uber spent to “buy the business” in Toronto.

While the deal no doubt has benefits for both sides, it has also resulted in a pile of problems including 55,000 rideshares spewing emissions and a driver class that can barely make enough money to eat food and live indoors. In Ottawa, the City’s 2016 decision to write special by-laws for rideshare has resulted in a $230 million lawsuit, with a momentous decision due any minute now.

It seems surprising to me that anyone would charge full speed ahead with a new Uber deal in the days before Toronto announces how it’s going to cap rideshare and the courts announce whether Ottawa’s changes were legal.

Purchasers pressure rideshare which squeezes drivers surcharging fares, who probably arrive home stressed out enough to kick their dogs. When did getting around become so complicated?

Nonetheless, at the Greater Toronto Airport Authority it’s déjà vu all over again for Taxi and Limo drivers. Special deals and unique opportunities are being created for their competitors, while the poor schmucks who lost the bid they did not even realize was being conducted will be left scrambling for business. This is the very definition of “New Procurement,” a term I was forced to coin in the depths of desperation at trying to describe the chaotic, inconsistent manner in which agencies and institutions invent business contracts in the currently reality.

The time-tested procurement principles of transparency, competition, equal treatment, conflict of interest management, clear specifications, consistent evaluation criteria, and compliance with existing laws and regulations no longer matter. New Procurement allows for mysterious dealings and special treatment.

So while the GTAA has created a hilariously exhaustive 46-page “Updated Conditions of Permit” for Taxi and Limo drivers scheduled to become effective on April 8th, yet-to-be-officially announced arrangements with rideshare companies appear to already be in force.

Ironically, the “Updated Conditions of Permit” inadvertently, yet perfectly illustrate several of the most outrageous elements of New Procurement. In Schedule B, in black ink on white paper in plain text for all to see, GTAA has let Taxi and Limo drivers know that while everybody can see the deal being offered to them, no body can see the deal being offered to rideshare (newly labelled “alternative taxicab.”)

UPDATE FEBRUARY 15/TAXI NEWS CORRECTION: “Alternative taxicab” in Schedule “B” Fees does not refer to rideshare vehicles; it refers to fully Electric Vehicles. Information on the conditions being offered to rideshare firms including Uber and Lyft has not been released.

Source: GTAA Taxi Conditions of Permit

According to Taxi drivers who actually talk with rideshare drivers, the arrangements are already working like this:

 Taxi and LimoRideshare
Drop off fee3.506.00
Pick up fee for out of area drivers$15.00 By pre-arrangement only Passenger name must be provided to GTAA before pick up*  

(*this means, many if not most Taxis will leave GTAA without a fare)  
6.00 No pre-arrangement necessary. No passenger name provided to GTAA before pick up**  

(**this means, every Uber driver arriving at GTAA can leave with a passenger leaving few to none for Taxi and Limo)
GTAA approved rate to downtown Toronto$65Rideshare sets its own price including surge pricing

 “GTAA is a private business, not a government agency,” points out Marc Andre Way, President of the Canadian Taxi Association. “If they can get more money out of Uber than they can out of Taxi, they are free to do so. Of course, in future, Uber could say ‘We’re raising our prices,’ or walk away if they can’t make enough profit. Businesses can do that, too.

“It’s more a matter of, is this how Canadians believe service contracts are awarded, or should be awarded?”

Another ironic element of the GTAA negotiation is that with an arrangement allowing every rideshare driver to leave with a fare, the airport appears to be TRYING to eliminate locally licensed Taxis and Limos from its line-up.

“When Uber is surge pricing, customers come looking for us,” an airport driver told Taxi News on February 11. “For a lot of us, we don’t know if we can afford to keep doing this. I worked 12 hours today and got three fares. I can’t keep doing this.

“We are all hoping to serve the same pie of customers, but the pie is not getting any bigger,” he sighed wearily.

The “pie of customers” is, in fact, the very group of people forgotten in the rush to New Procurement. It is the GTAA’s prerogative to try to squeeze more revenues from its contracted ground transportation providers if possible; rideshare companies can pay drivers less and charge customers more through surge pricing if they so desire.

Airport Taxi and Limo drivers offer consistent pricing to consumers, but they can’t earn a living with rideshare scooping the most, and the most lucrative, runs.

At least Toronto and Ottawa seem to be learning that business realities cannot be rewritten on a whim. Hopefully others will realize it too, before New Procurement leaves everyone stranded.