“The guy who invented this app is a fuckin’ genius, man. I’m tellin’ you, a fuckin’ genius.”
Wassim, my driver, is referring to Uber. He is apparently not Italian, but he sounds pretty Italian when he swears.
“Capitol has an app, Blueline has an app, and it’s all the same, it’s all shit, man,” he says.
I was a confused when a Capitol Taxi cab arrived in front of my apartment after I used Uber to request a ride.
“I wasn’t expecting a real cab."
“What do you mean?”
“You’re a real taxi; you do both?”
“Why not, man?”
He sounds almost defensive, which makes me think his boss probably doesn’t know he’s driving Uber customers.
Wassim tells me he’s been driving (legally) for over 20 years. He’s the archetypal cabbie; mid 40s, classic gut, bald, his skull shining and reflecting the passing greens and reds of intersections. He looks like a young James Gandolfini, and sounds like him too.
He believes that although drivers should have the proper training, Uber is the way of the future as far as the taxi business goes.
When I ask him about his contract with Capitol and whether or not driving for Uber violates that contract, he says: “I take calls from dispatch first, and I accept requests from Uber if I’m just waiting around and if it’s not a big trip or whatever."
This didn’t exactly answer my question, but since my ride with Wassim, the Ottawa Sun released an article stating that there is a “strict” rule in the union’s collective agreement. The union does not allow drivers who work for cab companies to drive for other companies (e.g. Uber).
When I first got in, Wassim set the meter and told me he just wanted to see what the difference would be.
The total cost of my ride through Uber: $11.57
The same ride through Capitol Taxi: $15.80
For those who don’t know how taxi companies work: They actually rent out their plates (and lease their cars) to the drivers who pay a monthly fee (in Wassim’s case, about $2,200.) Uber, on the other hand, takes 20 percent of each transaction.
It was hard to get a straight answer out of Wassim about which was better for him financially, but it’s important to note that he was, at this point, looking for a tip.