ELECTION: McCallum courts cabbie vote by promising Surrey Uber ban

SURREY — Five Surrey taxi companies have endorsed Doug McCallum’s mayoral campaign in an effort to ban a ride-sharing service trying to break into the Vancouver market.

Representatives from Newton Whalley Hi-Way Taxi, Surdell Kennedy, Delta Sunshine, Guildford Cab and Pacific Cabs met with McCallum last week (Oct. 1) to share concerns about Uber. The San Francisco-based company uses its own smartphone app, whereby customers request rides and track their reserved vehicle’s location in real-time.

But Mohan Kang, spokesperson for the local cabbies, argues the service is highly unregulated because anyone can sign up to be a driver without carrying a license.

“There’s no accountability and there are no safeguards. All of our taxi drivers must have a chauffeur permit, go get their cars inspected every six months, go to training and have a camera installed in their vehicle.

“Uber does not serve people with disabilities. They don’t serve people on social assistance who don’t have a bank account,” he said, referring to its cashless system.

Uber rep Arielle Goren said the company should be viewed as a technology platform that gives people another choice when it comes to finding a way home.

“Vancouver has a problem with taxi wait times, especially on the weekend. We’ve seen in a lot of cities where we’ve entered, like Seattle and Philadelphia, that the DUI rate dropped by 10 per cent,” she said. “It also gives anyone a chance to make a little extra cash and work on their own time.”

When a ride is requested, Uber dispatches the call to the nearest driver, who has to accept it within a few minutes. The info made available is the pickup location and the rider’s first name. The rider in turn receives the driver’s name, a photo and the license plate number.

When asked about its screening process, Goren said applicants must go through a rigorous background check that includes a RCMP check, a local police check, a lifetime sex offender check and a lifetime DUI check.

“All our rides are insured with our best in-class industry standard end-to-end $5-million coverage per ride. We feel very confident in our commitment to safety,” Goren added.

But that’s not enough for McCallum, who said he’ll do anything in his power to stop Uber from operating in Surrey.

“If you go on Google, you’ll see they have a huge number of lawsuits online. They have a very terrible track record,” he told the Now. “It is very unsafe for our public to put that kind of system in place.”

Uber operated in Vancouver in 2012, but was forced out after the province started enforcing a $75-minimum fare ride for its higher-end service, Uber Black. The company tried to make its case again last week in front of Vancouver City Council, who voted to put the ride-sharing app on hold for six months while it researches the impact of the new technology on the taxi industry.

According to McCallum, the overwhelming support of 100 plus taxi reps at last week’s meeting shows there’s no room for Uber in Vancouver or Surrey.

“It will destroy local business,” he said.