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Comment: Add up the numbers to compare ride-hailing with taxi industry

Re: “Minister doesn’t sound like fan of ride-hailing,” column, Dec. 4. As a taxi owner/operator, allow me to offer a crash course on Taxi/Uber 101.

Re: “Minister doesn’t sound like fan of ride-hailing,” column, Dec. 4.

As a taxi owner/operator, allow me to offer a crash course on Taxi/Uber 101.

Taxi drivers pay yearly $50 for a criminal-record check; this includes the renewal of their chauffeur’s permit. Taxi drivers pay about $100 for a 12-hour shift. Plus gas.

Taxi owners pay all other costs, which are as follows:

Dispatch fees: $1,200 a month.

Maintenance: $400 to $500 a month. This includes the twice-yearly vehicle-safety inspection and the maintenance of the security camera, both required by law.

Purchase of the next vehicle through the taxi fund: $300 a month. (Most taxi vehicles are retired after five years.)

Insurance: Most owners operating under the big three taxi companies (Yellow, Bluebird and Victoria) pay on an average $1,300 a month based on the company’s ICBC track record, and it has nothing to do directly with any individual driver. Independent taxi owner/operators pay on average $700 a month, which is based on their record with ICBC.

A taxi medallion can be purchased on the open market from either a company or an individual owner or can be obtained by making an application to Passenger Transportation Board.

Medallion prices that once were between $250,000 and $300,000 are now down to the $100,000 mark and even meeting resistance at that level due to the Uber threat. I am sure the latest issuing of 15 per cent more taxi medallions in B.C. will not help that number go north.

The fact that Uber, etc., do not want a cap on the number of their vehicles involves no altruistic desire to give the consumers what they want, but everything to do with increasing the pool of cash from which they draw their 25 per cent. Uber and the other companies do not care a whit if each of their drivers make $30 a day as long as there are hundreds of them, thus increasing Uber’s 25 per cent.

The claim by ride-hailing company officials that 70 per cent of their drivers work 20 hours a week is a bunch of nonsense. I make a point of talking to Uber drivers when I am travelling. Most of them treat it as a full-time job and are out there working 50 to 60 hours a week. Yes, just like a taxi driver.

In big cities such as New York, a lot of taxi drivers who went over to ride-hailing are back to driving regular taxis, as they did not make enough money driving for Uber.

I do not think that Transportation Minister Claire Trevena is as anti-Uber as columnist Les Leyne makes her sound. After all, consider these facts:

Trevena authorized ICBC to create an insurance product specifically tailored for Uber, etc., when we already have one. It is called “vehicle for hire to carry passengers insurance,” a.k.a. taxi insurance.

The idea of Uber, etc., paying some sort of commercial insurance only when drivers have passengers is not reasonable as they will be driving around looking for their next hail the rest of the time. Yes, pretty much like a regular taxi, which generally is occupied with a paying customer 50 per cent of the time.

Trevena also said nothing about ride-hailing cars having to go through a twice-yearly vehicle-safety inspection, nor did she say anything about compulsory safety video cameras.

She also neglected to say that she would make sure that Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement, which from time time has “hound the taxi industry” campaigns with regulations and rules created mostly for the trucking industry, does the same to Uber, etc.

So please, Les, give the lady a break.

Jacques (Jack) Sages has been a taxi owner/operator for more than 25 years, the past 10 in Victoria.