Yellow taxi cabs and signs reading “stop Uber now,” and “taxi life matters,” were stationed in front of the Uber hiring fair at the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Kelowna on Nov. 2.
“I do not support Uber here, it is too small of a town. It’s going to kill the whole taxi industry, ” said Zora Mahal, a driver with West Cab.
The protesters said that they do not want the ride-hailing app Uber to come to Kelowna, since it will create competition and reduce the ability for taxi drivers to earn money.
Amarpreet Brar, a driver with Kelowna Cabs, said that the average wait time for a taxi is only about ten minutes in Kelowna. He said that while the wait time does increase during peak hours, particularly during the summer, it is not a significant problem.
Mahal said that sometimes drivers have to wait for an hour between rides, due to a lack of customers.
Spokesperson for Uber Canada, Keerthana Rang, said that companies like Uber and taxis can co-exist, and that it has happened in other cities.
“What we actually see is that when we can give more transportation options to people, that replaces the personal car, the market actually grows for everybody.”
She said that since tourism is a big industry in Kelowna, the city can accommodate another transportation option.
“Really people are just looking for choice.”
Brar said taking a ride with a taxi service supports the local economy since the shareholders and employees all live in Kelowna. He said that Uber has headquarters in the U.S. and approximately 25 per-cent of each fare is siphoned to the South.
Despite concerns raised by the protesters about insurance and safety, Uber has stated that their drivers are required to have the same level of insurance and training as taxi drivers.
Uber is currently only operational as a food-delivery service in Kelowna. Rang said that they hope to expand their services to ride-hailing in the near future.
She said that Uber has submitted an application to the government to operate in Kelowna. She explained that the company is working to hire drivers, in order to be able to hit the road as soon as their application is approved.
The hiring fair will continue at the Fairfield Inn and Suites on Powrick Road, on Nov. 3.
More information about Uber and their insurance and payment models are available at uber.com.