Will the Golden Age of Uber stay golden?

April 1, 2016

Uber’s getting a lot of love lately here in Toronto. Not without its share of hate, the love outweighs it, and people are voting with their virtual wallets. Will Uber’s service quality eventually devolve to that of cabs? It’s been a much better experience for me, and I’m not alone. Sure I’ve had some nice cab drivers, but the bad ones – and not just one or two or three – have soured me enough that I was all too happy to jump over to the new taxi ride sharing company in town.

Service is generally much better. It’s new, they’re trying to impress. There’s ratings for both driver and passenger, which is cool. The payment happens automatically, avoiding what would be a painful transaction with a traditional cab driver if you don’t have cash. And it’s almost always cheaper, except in busy times.

This of course became a crisis for cabbies, who proceeded to be even worse by blocking traffic in protest and attacking cars. They claim Uber is skirting the regulations, which are likely painfully outdated.

I can’t entirely blame the cab drivers for their reputation, or at least I can empathize. Driving around the city in traffic for hours. Working late nights into the early morning chauffeuring around drunken idiots vomiting in your car. Probably getting stiffed now and again. They’ve become jaded.

For those reasons I’m a little worried about the sustainability of it all for Uber. What’s going to stop Uber drivers from going down that same road? How can you not become jaded over time? quicker turnover, perhaps. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. Their system is designed to onboard new drivers with minimal effort, and I’m guessing just as easily they can quit. But if the invisible hand sorts the market out, won’t the number of drivers and prices level out to about to about the same cabs are now? For that not to happen, someone’s gotta get paid less, no? Maybe with Uber’s scale they can reach an efficiency where they need less of a cut.

We shall see. Until then I’ll remain optimistic and keep hailing drivers with a tap.

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