May 2018

One man’s view of Mississauga’s Uber pilot project

by Mike Beggs

“I don’t think the City is protecting us. If Uber had to go through the same process as us, it would be okay.”

Those are the words of long-time Mississauga cabby Hatshwar Singh. But he could be speaking for any taxi operator, in Toronto or across the GTA, who has watched the virtual destruction of their industry since Uber first hit the region in 2012.

Of his 20 years on the road, 2018 is shaping up as the worst for this Blue & White Taxi driver. In his ballcap, T-shirt, hoodie, and jeans, he sometimes sits for what seems ages between fares outside the Novotel in the city’s downtown, while Uber X drivers swoop in for pickups.

“It’s very slow. The summertime will make it worse,” he muses.

“There are days it’s good, but (generally) you’re lucky to get a couple of good orders a day. Today, I came out at 7 a.m., I’ve made $45 and it’s now 11. I’ve got to work until 6 or 7 p.m. You’ve got no choice.”

He pays monthly dues of $567, $400 for his plate rental, gas of about $25 a day, and insurance of $5,000 per year (with a clean record!). His wife is ill, and off work. By contrast, Singh notes Uber and other Technology Network Companies face far lower expenses, and have been granted unlimited entry into the Mississauga market under the ongoing TNC Pilot Project.

The jolly Guyanese native came to Canada in 1977.

“I used to work two jobs. I cleaned offices. I did all kinds of jobs to make ends meet,” he relates. “Now I’ve got only one job this one -- and I work seven days a week.”

For the father of one, driving taxi “has been a good business”, until recently. He’s soon turning 65, and his 2013 Camry has one year left on the road.

So, is he considering retirement?

“I’m going to collect my (old age) pension. But I will probably still work, because it won’t be enough,” he offers.

“I live in a house. I work to pay it off.”

Like most Mississauga drivers, Singh doesn’t bother attending Public Vehicle Advisory Committee meetings anymore, to fight for a level playing field between taxis and TNC’s.

“I went once. You go there, you waste your time -- because they’re not going to change their mind, anyways,” he comments.

He longs for the days when Hazel McCallion was Mayor, and she took an active interest in the livelihood of cab drivers, whom she called, “my boys”.

“Hazel was against Uber, or she wanted (them to face the same rules as us). But (Mississauga’s current Mayor) Bonnie Crombie, instead of thinking for herself she said, ‘We will do what Toronto does’,” he says. “How can a person say that?”

The way things are going, he fears the taxi industry may soon be in mothballs replaced completely by TNC’s, or even the autonomous vehicles that Uber, Waymo, and a host of other major players have been investing heavily in.

“Everything is changing, man. What can you say?” he adds.

“The driverless cars, that’s yet to be seen. I don’t know how safe that can be. I’m not going to trust them myself.”


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