Category: Story

10 Mar

Uber seems to offer better service in areas with more white people. That raises some tough questions

Taxi Truths News, Race to the bottom, Regulation, Safety Issues, Story, Surge pricing

An Uber car is seen parked with the driver’s lunch left on the dashboard in Los Angeles in July. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Jennifer Stark is a computational journalist at the College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, College Park. Nicholas Diakopoulos is an assistant professor in the College of Journalism at University of Maryland, College Park. This is a guest contribution to Wonkblog.

The goal of Uber’s surge-pricing algorithm is to influence car availability by dynamically adjusting prices. When surge is in effect, and prices are higher, the idea is that the supply of drivers is increased while at the same time demand is decreased. We previously reported that it appears that rather than increase the absolute supply of drivers by getting more cars on the road, existing driver supply is instead redistributed geographically to places with more demand. If drivers are relocating to areas with surge-pricing, those areas will experience reduced wait times for their car, or better service, but the areas the drivers are moving away from will experience longer wait times, or poorer service. So who gains, and who loses? Which neighborhoods get consistently better or worse service?

Our analysis of a month’s worth of Uber data throughout D.C. suggests an answer: The neighborhoods with better service — defined as those places with consistently lower wait times, the pickup ETA as projected by Uber — are more white.

We collected data on wait times — Uber’s estimate for how long you will wait between requesting your car and it arriving — and surge pricing via the Uber API for 276 locations in D.C. every three minutes for four weeks from Feb. 3 to March 2. We didn’t want to miss any surges, so we chose three minutes, knowing that surges in D.C. are no shorter than three minutes. The surge-pricing data was then used to calculate the percentage of time surging. Data were analyzed by census tracts, which are geographic areas used for census tabulations, so that we could test for relationships with demographic information. Only uberX cars were included in our analysis since they are the most common type of car on Uber. (In the interest of making the data analysis transparent, all our code can be viewed online.)

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Source: Washington Post

10 Mar

Quebec government considering buying back some taxi permits, reselling or leasing them to Uber

Taxi Truths News, Regulation, Safety Issues, Story

The Quebec government is considering buying back some taxi permits in order to sell or lease them to Uber.

This is the model advocated by Transport Minister Jacques Daoust, but the terms have yet to be determined. A bill would be tabled by the end of March forcing the transport service to follow the new rules.

On Thursday, the last day of hearings of the parliamentary commission on the paid transport of people in Quebec, Daoust said the government could buy permits that are on sale, and then lease them in order to generate revenue. The takeover of the permits would thus be at no cost to the Treasury.

The value of taxi licenses is estimated between $1.3 and $ 1.7 billion currently at the rate of $150,000 to $200,000 per licence, for 8,500 licences in circulation in the controlled market.

“I’ll buy them, but I will have to find the revenue to be able to purchase them,” said the Minister in a press briefing before the final sitting of the parliamentary committee.

“We will not disburse $1.3 or $1.4 billion at the outset, but we can over a period of six to seven years, be fair with the industry. We will give it the flexibility to be able to evolve. And new players, and those who buy licenses, might not be forced to mortgage their future (to buy a license),” he said.

Year after year, about 500 licences change hands, and as taxi permits are put on sale, the state could buy and then lease them to Uber and its drivers, or to other drivers, in order to recover its stake. The permit holder would not have to shell out a large sum to buy them.

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Source: Montreal Gazette


09 Mar

Laid-off undercover Edmonton Uber cop says city won’t be able to find vehicle for hire ‘creeps’

Taxi Truths News, Race to the bottom, Regulation, Safety Issues, Story

Days before Edmonton’s new vehicle-for-hire bylaw took effect, Edmonton didn’t have one experienced officer ready to enforce it.

Its veteran three-member municipal enforcement team was reassigned. Its only undercover officer was let go Feb. 9. With no plan in place to bring that officer back for court appointments, dozens of cases are set to be withdrawn for lack of a witness.

Despite promising council it would gear up enforcement and report back on how much that would cost, administration scaled back. They now have fewer people on the job and no one going undercover.

The plan, or lack of a plan, has former undercover officer Tom Wilson shaking his head.

“You’re not going to find the creeps. You’re not going to find the people who are ripping people off,” said Wilson, who was the investigator let go Feb. 9.

His contract was supposed to run until next October, but his termination letter says his position is “no longer required.”

“I’m a dad of a daughter,” he said. “If she’s downtown and I’m not able to get there, she’s smart enough not to (get into an unmarked cab), but alcohol does play a factor. I don’t want that opportunity to exist. … You can’t get things done by being in uniform. You just can’t.”

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Source: Edmonton Journal

08 Mar

Committee hears cab drivers’ concerns about Uber

Taxi Truths News, Race to the bottom, Regulation, Safety Issues, Story, Surge pricing, Uncategorized

Ride sharing services like Uber are inevitable and Saskatoon needs to be ready, the city’s transportation committee heard Tuesday.

“We’re going to deal with it rather than have it deal with us,” committee chair Coun. Randy Donauer said.

At the same time, he and other committee members advocated navigating the regulation process carefully and with proper consultation from all affected industries.

“I think we’re in for a fairly lengthy process,” Donauer said.

City council previously expressed a desire to have the province regulate ride sharing services. According to a report the transportation committee received Tuesday, the province responded by saying municipalities should create their own regulations.

The report was passed to council for information, along with motions instructing the administration to consult with the taxi industry and look at whether it’s viable to regulate taxis and ride sharing companies using the same rules.

Seven citizens from the taxi and car service industries spoke at the committee meeting, all in favour of regulating Uber.

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Source: The Star Phoenix

06 Mar

Internal Data Offers Glimpse At Uber Sex Assault Complaints

Taxi Truths News, Regulation, Safety Issues, Story

According to data provided by Uber to BuzzFeed News, the company received five claims of rape and “fewer than” 170 claims of sexual assault directly related to an Uber ride as inbound tickets to its customer service database between December 2012 and August 2015.

Uber provided these numbers as a rebuttal to screenshots obtained by BuzzFeed News. The images that were provided by a former Uber customer service representative (CSR) to BuzzFeed News, and subsequently confirmed by multiple other parties, show search queries conducted on Uber’s Zendesk customer support platform from December 2012 through August 2015. Several individual tickets shown in the screenshots have also been confirmed.

After Uber learned of BuzzFeed’s investigation, the company began contacting customer service representatives in its system who had searched the Zendesk database for the terms rape and sexual assault, apparently in a hunt for the leaker.

In one screenshot, a search query for “sexual assault” returns 6,160 Uber customer support tickets. A search for “rape” returns 5,827 individual tickets. Other variations of the terms yield similarly high returns: A search for “assaulted” shows 3,524 tickets, while “sexually assaulted” returns 382 results.

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Source: Buzz Feed

01 Mar

Uber suspends service in Edmonton because government insurance policy not in place

Taxi Truths News, Race to the bottom, Regulation, Story

Uber has suspended its service in Edmonton because it doesn’t have an approved insurance plan in place as the city’s new ride-sharing regulations kicked in Tuesday.

“The province has cost thousands of Edmonton families a source of income by forcing Uber to suspend operations in the city,” Ramit Kar, Uber’s Alberta general manager, said in a statement.

“Given the city bylaw applies within the city limits of Edmonton, we will continue to enable ridesharing services in surrounding areas.”

Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason announced Monday the new insurance product Uber needs will not be approved in time for the deadline, even though the basic framework of the agreement is finished.

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Source: Edmonton Journal

29 Feb

Lawyer for cabbies argues Uber’s impact on taxi market a ‘disaster’

Taxi Truths News, Race to the bottom, Regulation, Story

A court on Monday heard for the first time arguments on how Ottawa Uber drivers might fall outside the city’s taxi regulations, weeks before council sees the results of a critical bylaw review.

The local taxi union is asking a judge to ban drivers from using the Uber ride-ordering application to transport passengers. While the union’s lawyer, Sean McGee, described the “disaster” in the taxi market since Uber hit the streets, the lawyer representing several Uber drivers argued Uber vehicles and taxis are two completely different services.

Brian Elkin said Uber drivers don’t operate in the manner city-regulated cabs do: They don’t use taxi stands, they don’t accept curbside hails, and they don’t have to accept a ride request. While the taxi bylaw compels cabbies to have cameras installed inside their vehicles, Elkin pointed out Uber has a different safety system where passengers can see the driver’s picture and details of the vehicle on their smartphones.

McGee, on the other hand, said the city’s bylaw is simple: If you drive a vehicle for hire, you’re a cab and should follow with the rules. The bylaw requires anyone driving passengers for a fee to have a municipal taxi permit.

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Source: Ottawa Citizen

26 Feb

Taking on Uber Quebec – with some help from the province

Taxi Truths News, Race to the bottom, Regulation, Story

Unless you’re Uber or one its lightly regulated drivers, you would probably think twice about getting into the taxi business these days. The company behind the near-ubiquitous ride-sharing app did not come to be valued at more than $60-billion (U.S.) by going easy on the competition.

Somehow, that has not deterred Montreal serial entrepreneur Alexandre Taillefer – best known locally for selling an early tech startup to Quebecor and starring in the Quebec version of Dragon’s Den – from choosing as his next act the intrepid challenge of running Uber out of the province.

He means to do it in the purest way possible – by outcompeting Uber, albeit with an assist from the provincial government. Mr. Taillefer is calling for a tax or fee of $1.10 to be slapped on every Uber ride in Quebec. The proceeds would flow into a fund to compensate the owners of traditional taxi plates, who have seen the value of their permits plummet with Uber’s entry.

“Not compensating these owners would amount to the pure and simple confiscation of their asset by the state,” Mr. Taillefer’s company, Taxelco, charged in a submission last week to the National Assembly’s transportation committee. It is holding special hearings into Uber in response to rising anti-Uber protests, including one that last month shut off traffic into Montreal’s airport.

All signs point to the provincial government, which took over primary responsibility for regulation of the taxi industry from municipalities in 1973, imposing some kind of new levy on Uber fares. Whether it will go as far as the Montreal Board of Trade’s recommendation that the government itself put up the money to buy out the owners of taxi plates remains to be seen.

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Source: The Globe and Mail

26 Feb

Mississauga council to vote on legalizing Uber

Taxi Truths News, Race to the bottom, Regulation, Story, Surge pricing

 Mississauga could be the first city in the GTA to fully regulate Uber and other ride-hailing companies next week.

A staff report to be debated at a council meeting March 2 recommends an “equal regulation” option that would legalize cheaper but unlicensed services like UberX while allowing the traditional taxi industry to compete.

After Calgary approved new rules that Uber rejected last week, a similar move from Mississauga is likely to be closely watched at Toronto city hall, where staff are in the midst of drafting their own regulations.

“I have always maintained that we have to strike a balance between new technologies and an established industry that has a long history of providing quality service,” Mayor Bonnie Crombie said in a statement to the Star.

“It is important that we create a level playing field that allows for growth and progress within the industry, while protecting public safety.”

But the newly proposed rules are being criticized by both the industry and Uber.

In a move modeled after Calgary’s regulations, Mississauga city staff have recommended creating a separate category of licence that would require Uber drivers to get the same police background check and training as traditional drivers and provide proof of English literacy as well as obtaining “equivalent” insurance. Drivers would also be required to provide proof of vehicle inspection every six months.

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Source: The Toronto Star

24 Feb

Brampton calls on Uber to suspend ride-sharing service

Taxi Truths News, Race to the bottom, Regulation, Story

Brampton city council jumped into the Uber fray on Wednesday as they called on Uber to suspend some services and requested staff step up enforcement against unlicensed drivers.

But with no plans to challenge Uber in court, Brampton’s politicians may now find themselves in the middle of a tug-of-war that has seized Toronto and other major cities across the country.

In their first formal move against Uber, the 11-member council voted unanimously to request the company suspend UberX operations “in a show of good faith” while city staff review the regulations governing taxis and limousines. But that motion is not binding on Uber, which has largely refused to suspend operations in other cities, including Toronto.

Uber Canada gave no assurances they plan to comply with council’s request. When asked directly if they would, Uber Canada spokesperson Susie Heath said they “look forward to continuing our work with officials in Brampton to modernize regulations to encourage innovation, put people first and create safe, reliable and affordable transportation options.”

While Uber has disrupted taxi markets around the world by letting users connect to licensed cabs through a mobile phone app, it more controversially also offers rides in unlicensed cars at a discount through UberX.

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Source: The Toronto Star