Peak tourism season making Uber's early impact on ride-hailing market unclear

Uber's impact on Kelowna

It's been three weeks since ride-hailing giant Uber launched in Kelowna and the company says its is seeing a lot more demand than expected.

“We’ve been asking riders for patience," said Uber spokesperson Keerthana Rang.

"The demand has been so high we need more drivers to join the platform. So that’s our big push right now, to get more drivers on the platform to meet the demand we are seeing in Kelowna."

URide, a ride hailing company that launched in Kelowna just over a year ago, tells Castanet their pick-up and drop-off numbers have actually grown by over 50 per cent since Uber’s arrival.

“We’re actually growing faster than ever. In the last five weeks, the amount of rides we’re giving per week has gone up over 50 per cent, and yeah, we’re getting tons of support from the locals. We’re noticing a lot of drivers are coming on board and driving with URide,” said URide owner Cody Ruberto.

“There’s a lot of demand coming through and we’re just obsessed with taking care of our passengers and our drivers and it seems to be paying off. Our pickup times have been under 10 minutes on average, so we’ve had really low pickup times. The pricing for URide is the best price in town for passengers right now.”

Ruberto says they are striving to compete with the globally-established Uber with customer service, communication, and making sure both his drivers and his passengers are comfortable and taken care of.

The company has also been offering discounted rides and donated 10% of all fares on June 19 to children's soccer groups.

Kelowna Cabs, meanwhile, says Uber’s decision to launch during Kelowna’s busy tourism season has made it difficult to gauge exactly how it has impacted the market.

“Kelowna is still a medium-sized market. There are only so many calls for taxis, for ride hailing or for whatever, and there've been a couple of ride sharing companies that have come here and tried, but they failed because they weren’t getting any passengers in their car… eventually they folded," Kelowna Cabs spokesman Roy Paulson said.

Lucky to Go launched as Kelowna's first ride-hailing app in July 2020 but did not make it.

Paulson said during the busy summer season, the regulated and fixed meter rates in taxis may end up working better for consumers when compared to Uber's surge pricing model that charges more when demand is high.

"Our metre rates are set by the Transportation Board. And this is another advantage that we have. We don’t have the surge pricing, nothing whatsoever. And with the way the economy is right now, people are watching every dollar they have. With us, they use us everyday to get to work, to get to their friend’s house. They know how much it’s going to be every time," Paulson said.

It appears the impact of Uber on the local market will become more clear once the tourists go home this fall.

If you're in need of a ride, all three ride share companies are out in full force this weekend to make sure everyone gets from A to B safely.

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