Uber is a ridesharing app which connects riders with drivers. Think of it as the 21st century version of taxicabs. But is Uber in St. John’s, Newfoundland?
The company was founded in 2009 and and service started out in larger cities. Newfoundland is no stranger to being the last to get cool things, so Uber has never been available here. When the service became available in Halifax in 2020, it gave us a little hope that maybe someday St. John’s would be so lucky, too.
Uber has not been without its share of controversy over the years. From accusations of mistreating drivers, disrupting taxi businesses, increasing traffic and pollution, and even rogue drivers, Uber has seen it all.
What seems to have kept the company going is the futuristic and convenient nature of the app. It makes calling for a taxi and waiting for it to arrive seem archaic.
The Uber app lets you select exactly where to be picked up, shows you when the driver is arriving, split the cost with friends, save money by pooling, and they’ve even rolled out other services such as food delivery with Uber Eats.
On the driver side, Uber has been a very cool way for people to make side money or drive full-time. After being vetted by Uber, you’re able to sign on with the app and start driving. Unlike taxis, these drivers use their own vehicles.
The app uses a live map to guide the driver to their next pickup and drop-off destinations. No more having to tell the driver what turns to take. Also, since the app is based on satisfaction ratings and tips, there’s an incentive for drivers to provide a great experience. Should they drive erratically or have a dumpy car, it won’t be long before they’re kicked from the app.
Uber Rollout Challenges
As with any disruptive technology, Uber has faced plenty of hurdles in its rollout. From legitimate criticisms to taxi monopolies not wanting their businesses destroyed, it has not been an easy ride.
In most municipalities, including St. John’s, taxis must be legally registered and require a special kind of insurance. When a company like Uber comes in where virtually anybody can be a driver, lawmakers don’t take it lightly. Nor do the owners of taxi companies who could see their businesses obliterated overnight.
Is Uber in St. John’s?
In February 2020 we noticed that Uber had a part of its website setup indicating that the service was available in St. John’s. Although rides were not available at that moment, it certainly was an indicator of possible things to come.
Bad news came in August 2021, as CBC reached out to Uber and received word that Uber is St. John’s is not going to be happening. Subsequently, the page was then removed.
Other Uber Benefits & Disadvantages
Uber is a huge benefit for tourism as well. Passengers who aren’t even sure where they are simply rely on the GPS of the app for the driver to find them. No more having to call the taxi company and try to describe their location!
On the downside, Uber uses surge pricing where rides can cost significantly more during busy times, which is something taxis are not allowed to do. As well, you’re no longer “anonymous” when riding an Uber, since they have to verify you as a user. When you hop in a taxi, nobody knows your name and there’s no record of where you were or where you travelled. With Uber, it’s stored on a server.
How would Uber go over if it ever came to Newfoundland? Maybe a bit like this.
Having indicated before that insurance has placed extreme pressure on the taxi industry in Newfoundland, there’s no doubt they would put up a fight against Uber in St. John’s as well. COVID has also caused a dwindling in the number of drivers, meaning taxi companies are in a real pinch.
At the end of the day, Uber is revolutionizing transportation across the world. It is the future. Not allowing the service to operate in the province would be step towards keeping us in the dark ages. However, right now it seems there’s no hope anyway.
While the Uber rideshare service hasn’t made its way to St. John’s yet, one of their spinoff services, Uber Eats, is now available in the area. Similar to Skip and DoorDash, Uber Eats is an app platform on which you can order food for delivery from local restaurants.