After 44 years in the taxi industry, Joe Thompson is getting ready to be one of Red Deer’s first Uber drivers.
He gave up driving a taxi about a year ago, but is now interested in joining the ride-sharing service.
Uber is targeting a Sept. 8 launch in Red Deer, the Advocate has learned. It is already available in Alberta cities such Calgary and Edmonton and is planning a fall launch in Lethbridge.
Thompson said it was largely the cost of driving taxi that led to his decision to leave the job. He estimated it cost about $700-a-week to run a taxi in Red Deer.
“Right now the costs are too high and the money isn’t there to justify staying with it,” said Thompson. “By the time you pay your lease to the company, pay your own fuel and car washes, you’re looking at close to $700-a-week.”
That cost was manageable when a taxi driver could make $1,800- to $1,900-a-week.
“Now if you’re only taking in $900 to $1,000 and you’re working 60- to 70-hours-a-week, it doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
The oil price collapse and subsequent recession also took its toll on the taxi industry.
“In the mornings we’d have all kinds of trips with guys going to work,” he said. “Good trips too, from Vanier Woods, Deer Park or Lancaster all the way to Edgar. Those people aren’t taking taxis when they’re not working.”
Taxi drivers and brokers are also on the hook for annual fees and licenses, regardless of how much they collect under City of Red Deer law. Also regulated by the city are the rates taxis can charge for trips with an initial 92 metre fee and a per 121 metre fee after.
Thompson said this affects how frequently a driver has to work.
“Uber gives me flexibility,” said Thompson.
Under current city law, Uber falls outside of municipal jurisdiction and is instead regulated by provincial law.