Adapt or Die – Taxis vs Uber and Lyft

The recent dispute in the City of Surrey regarding concerns about the potential impact of Uber and Lyft on the taxi industry garnered a lot of attention. Even though the independent Passenger Transportation Board has approved these companies to operate, the taxi association decided to take the issue to court, and had asked for an injunction to keep Uber and Lyft from operating until their case is heard. That injunction was not granted. The taxi association does bring up some valid points, though, as they talk about passenger safety, accessibility for those with disabilities and other requirements taxis are expected to provide that aren’t requirements for Uber and Lyft.

What to Take from This Situation?

They are scared for their jobs: their livelihood, their ability to provide for their families if they are to face this new competition. It is not like Uber and Lyft are brand new services that just popped up, with horrible track records of not providing safe transportation. They’ve been operating in other markets for years now around the world without much issue. As well, the transportation board clearly took its time and looked at these other markets first before making a decision. It was not a quick “sure why not” decision.

So why all this fear from the taxi drivers? Well, they are likely looking to other companies and businesses that have been cast aside and forgotten in the wake of new technologies and services.

Which really raises another question. Why didn’t anyone try and stop online retailers, like Amazon, from operating in B.C.? They’ve destroyed businesses like Sears, Kmart, Zellers, Toys R Us…

Why didn’t anyone stop Netflix from allowing the streaming of videos, which has completely destroyed any and all video rental company. Does anyone even remember Blockbuster or Roger’s Videos?

Why isn’t anyone standing up for cashiers at McDonalds, Costco, Walmart, Save-On, Safeway, Shoppers, or frankly, anywhere else that has gone to automated tellers and check-outs? These are taking away many jobs from those who may have minimal education or from students looking for their first jobs.

We can even go as far back as the invention of the digital camera that totally destroyed Kodak and the requirement for camera film. Why didn’t anyone stop the sale of these products in stores to save that company and those jobs?

The Evolution of Business

Well, frankly, it’s just the evolution of business. Someone saw a gap in how a business was operating and moved to fill that gap. That gap can sometimes lead to much more then a small niche and result in a full new market creation that totally and completely wipes out the previous market.

So, although I feel for the taxi drivers who are potentially going to struggle or at least lose business as a result of Uber and Lyft, I accept that these companies were created out of a need or a demand for something that wasn’t being serviced fully, properly or in a way that made sense to the customers out there seeking the service. It is now the job of the taxi drivers to figure out how they can adapt and compete back, rather then just making themselves look desperate through paying lawyers a bunch of money to waste a bunch of time fighting a fight that they probably won’t win. Instead, maybe save those resources for investing in your business and figuring out how you can service your industry in a way that Uber and Lyft cannot do.

About the Author

Kelly Cunningham is a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA), with an MBA from the University of British Columbia and a BBA-Accounting from Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU).  He is currently a full-time accounting instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University School of Business., as well as session leader & facilitator for the CPA Professional Education Program. Prior to instructing, he held several controllership roles for public and private companies.