Saturday, March 17, 2018
Last updated: 2 years ago

Op-ed: The AMS should pursue a partnership with Uber

Illustration Aiken Lao / The Ubyssey

Illustration Aiken Lao / The Ubyssey

Has anybody tried hailing a cab from the side of a street in Vancouver? Good luck — there’s a small chance you’ll get into a taxi within 20 minutes. As good as we have it when it comes to transit, you’ll likely have a long wait in the rain for a bus, followed by a lengthy ride and then a walk in the dark to get to your front door.


Now, imagine a second scenario: you’re about to leave the bar with your friend, who is pretty intoxicated. Usually you’d take the bus, but it’s busy and you’re too tired for a 40-minute journey home. Maybe they aren’t even running anymore. Luckily, you’ve downloaded Uber, using a code from a friend, which gives you money off of your first journey. A driver is nearby — you look at their profile and see that they’re rated a full five stars. You can see a photo of the driver and the car, as well as an estimated cost to get you home. The driver pulls up to the bar within a couple minutes of the request, you and your friend hop in and you’re home, outside of your front door, within 15 minutes.

In total, this costs you less than the meal you might have picked up at McDonald’s while waiting for the bus. When you’re at home, you don’t have to scramble around for money for a tip, but if you enjoyed your Uber experience (or if you didn’t,) you’re invited to give your driver a rating, to help out other people in the same situation.

Last year, the AMS spent a significant amount of money on their TransLink voting campaign, involving a lot of groups on campus and using a wide variety of means to promote their “vote yes” message. Although ultimately the referendum did not get enough “yes” votes to pass, this shouldn’t mean the AMS’s work in this area is done. The AMS supporting an Uber campaign should mean safer transit options for students who don’t live on campus and aren’t lucky enough to benefit from SafeWalk.

People argue about the safety of Uber — but there’s no hard evidence to suggest it’s any less safe than hopping in a cab. As The Atlantic reports, “The narrative about ridesharing and public safety is largely anecdotal,” and there is no way to know whether taking an Uber is more dangerous than taking a taxi. A Cato Institute report even claims there is no difference in public safety between ridesharing and taxis.

Spending the summer in Europe, I took a lot of Ubers in a number of different countries. Every single ride, I was picked up in a pristine black sedan within two minutes of requesting the ride. During the London Tube strikes this summer I was in the centre of the city with my aunt, who has two knee replacements. Our Uber driver was extremely patient and helped us get in and out of the car, made sure we had all our belongings and knew where we were headed before he went to his next ride.

This, obviously, earned him a five-star rating. What’s sad is that our cab culture has made this a surprising occurrence rather than a reasonable expectation. I can’t even count the times I’ve witnessed that cab drivers have been rude or impatient with customers — because really, they have nothing to lose. If you have a bad experience in an Uber car, your complaint can be seen by hundreds of customers immediately, which leads to improved customer service experiences.

So again, consider this: which of these options would you rather? Wait 20 minutes for a bus, take the 30 minute ride to the nearest stop to your house and walk several blocks back home? Take a taxi which would cost the same as a weekly grocery shop and have no guarantee of a pleasant experience? Or be able to mutually accept your driver, be picked up in minutes, split your fare with your friends, be dropped exactly where you need to be and give your feedback — good and bad — to the world?

Uber is reliable, inexpensive and the future of private transportation. San Francisco alone saw a 65 per cent decrease in taxi rides after Uber moved in, a number not out of the ordinary for cities with the service. I have every confidence that the service will be perfect for students and truly believe that an AMS partnership, whatever it entails, would be extremely beneficial to the UBC community.

Olivia Law is a third-year English major and Culture Editor at The Ubyssey.