There seems to be a definite pattern forming.
Uber does something cool (but illegal/borderline illegal). Taxi cabs or the city get mad with them. They protest. Uber does something else cool (but illegal/borderline illegal)…
This time around the transportation system announced that it would be launching UberHOP, their newest commuting service.
Saving Toronto workers from their streetcar commutes, the service will take passengers in a larger vehicle from a shared starting point (like Liberty Village or the Distillery District) to a common location (like the Financial district) during rush hour.
But now TTC lawyers are trying to figure out if Uber’s plans will threaten the legally authorised monopoly they have on the city. More specifically it refers to The City of Toronto Act, which according to Andy Byford, TTC CEO, is very “specific“.
“The TTC and only the TTC can run mass transit in this city.”
Hmm. We’re not sure we would call a maximum of 5 passengers “mass transit”.
UberHOP, which will essentially save commuters from travelling via the (at times) hellish Queen and King streetcars, is being investigated to see if the service is in violation.
The Act prohibits anyone other than the TTC from operating a local transport system.
However, Uber was polite enough to extend their invitation to Andy Byford via email on Monday morning. “I’m not anti-Uber but my loyalty is to the TTC,” Byford said. “I thought it was kind of ironic that the head of the TTC should be sent an Uber invitation … I can tell you now I will be continuing to use the 504 King streetcar.”
But whatever the conclusion of the legality of the practice, it’s hard to argue the city doesn’t need an alternative to the overcrowding (in large part caused by an influx of commuters in growing neighbourhoods).
Last year, crowdfunded shuttle bus service, LineSix, took passengers downtown from Liberty Village. But the service folded over fears that it was in violation of city laws.
Uber spokesperson, Susie Heath, said to the National Post that UberHOP was “an easy way for commuters to share their trips with other commuters and help reduce traffic congestion in our city.”
UberPOOL, a two week pilot scheme that ran during the Pan Am Games, allowed two riders travelling in the same direction to split the fare. A report from the TTC found no significant impact on their operation and welcomed it as an alternative. But a spokesman suggested that these are two separate models and the new service will warrant a review. Brad Ross said, “We’ll look at UberHop with fresh eyes.”
If the city wants a monopoly on the transportation of commuters in Toronto, that’s fine. But they had better make it one that commuters are satisfied with, that runs smoothly, and which deals with the congestion that currently makes mornings a living hell.
Because in the words of Ned Stark, “Winter is Coming”, and UberHOP is looking very inviting.