Monday, July 15, 2024
To have vehicles for hire lined up and waiting for the exact moment a customer needs a ride would mean thousands of cars need to be cruising or waiting, 24/7. It's not sustainable; balance can be achieved but may require reasonable wait times, says Marc Andre Way. Photo: Vazken Karamanoukian
Opinion/ColumnTaxi industry news

Instant gratification is unsustainable

Consumers should not expect a cab to arrive faster than an ambulance

by Marc Andre Way

Marc Andre Way, CEO of Coventry Connections and President of the Canadian Taxi Association. Photo: Taxi News

Instant gratification is not sustainable in ground transportation.

Of course, consumers love the idea that they can tap an app to receive whatever they want, effortlessly and instantly. Unfortunately, they have been given the impression that eliminating wait times for transportation service is both possible, and affordable.

But service without a reasonable wait time requires thousands of cars to be sitting in wait for a call: streets are gridlocked, and competing drivers earn nothing. Meanwhile, fixed vehicle and insurance costs do not go down, regardless of how little business there is.

Historically, everyone was happy if a cab arrived in 8 or 10 minutes.

Now, because the market is flooded with thousands of drivers strategically perched nearby, a vehicle can arrive almost instantly in a city’s downtown core. They are cruising the streets or idling at the corner, ready to pounce on any business that pops up.

This is not a financially or environmentally sustainable situation, and this expectation should be discouraged by officials, environmentalists, traffic planners, and responsible consumers.

It’s reasonable for a Taxi to take 8 to 10 minutes to arrive. There is no fire. No one is dying.

In Canada, the National Fire Protection Association benchmark is to have a vehicle arrive within six minutes and 24 seconds.

Toronto’s paramedic response time ranges from 6 minutes to 25 minutes, depending on several factors. (Note: several of Toronto’s 2023 stats, including ambulance response time, are still listed as “TBD” which perhaps gives some idea of how challenging it can be simply to compile the statistics, apart from actually delivering the service. Never mind delivering the service at a profit in the private sector.)

Municipalities generally have found that with a reasonable number of vehicles for hire on the road, it was convenient to get a ride. There are exceptional circumstances like New Year’s Eve, snowstorms or transit strikes to manage; but service providers, consumers and government worked together to find a fair balance over the decades. Regular tweaking has been required: that’s what we do.

However, the fact of New Year’s Eve, snowstorms or transit strikes were never considered a reason to allow unlimited thousands of vehicles on the road, 365 days per year, to prevent customers from having to wait 2 minutes or 6 minutes or even 10 minutes.

Officials must have the courage and the backbone to push back on the unrealistic belief that having an unlimited number of vehicles for hire is a positive thing. Unlimited numbers of vehicles mean gridlock, increased emissions, and drivers with poverty earnings.

Yes, there will be complaints. Yes, there will be letters and emails to politicians, lots of them generated by the rideshare companies who make users sign a terms of service agreement which allows the company to complain on their behalf.

But the people who make decisions which are best for everyone have to stay strong and create good policies which are financially feasible; environmentally sustainable; and that work for everyone.

*****

Marc Andre Way is the president of the Canadian Taxi Association. This editorial was originally published on the CTA’s website.