By Lauren Khalil
Uber’s debut in Ottawa has been met with mixed emotions across the city including at Algonquin where licensed Ottawa taxi drivers are trained and certified.
The ride sharing business calls itself a technology company, leaving some people confused, like Algonquin taxi driver training course coordinator, Darson Hall.
“Yeah ok great, why are you running a cab company then?” said Hall. “Total absentee landlord. I mean that never works in anything.”
Uber has been debated for weeks, and its fight with the City of Ottawa has resulted in action against it including fining drivers.
The city licenses cabs in partnership with Algonquin. In the training course, prospective drivers go through language training as well as customer service, area knowledge and accessible taxi training.
Abdulla Treif, a student in Algonquin’s taxi training program enrolled in the course after spending years as an underground taxi driver.
“There’s no one to protect you, you protect yourself,” he said. “Uber is the same because no one is going to protect you.”
“There is a threat to other companies such as Capital, DJ’s etcetera. But at the same time it’s an easy go system as we just need to download an app and we can call a taxi,” said business communication student, Shivani Mehta.
While some politicians like Jim Watson have been critical of Uber, others, like John Baird have been welcoming. The debate has reflected public opinion.
“The question first and foremost, what is better for the public?” stated Yilma Gari, another taxi driver student.
“If Uber is better for the public then there is a very high chance is will be fully operational sooner or later,” he continued.
The primary goal of Uber is to connect riders with drivers through an app. It is allegedly cheaper than regular cabs with the convenience of an app.
However, “there’s more to the picture,” according to Hall. “Accessibility, that’s very important, accountability,” Hall continued.
Ottawa cab drivers and drivers-in-training have expressed concern of the threats Uber could pose to city cabs. Some have even begun moonlighting for Uber.
“If it works, it will destroy the cab industry,” said Hall.