Bridgetown Taxi operators today shouted a loud no to the suggestion that ride-sharing phenomenon Uber could soon reach Barbadian shores.
When Barbados TODAY visited the Independence Square Taxi stand this morning, drivers said they feared Uber would deprive them of their livelihoods.
Taxi operator Steve Yarde said that the industry was already unsustainable, adding that drivers only enjoy five flourishing months a year.
“The island is saturated with taxis as it is now and the amount of work that is sustainable cannot sustain everybody. There are probably five good months in a year and then it is ‘dog eat dog’ out here to get a job,” Yarde said, adding that with the ailing economy some Barbadians, were unable to afford to take a taxi opting instead for a minibus or route taxi.
“The economy is sluggish at the moment. There are a lot of people who cannot afford and I am talking locals now; who cannot afford to catch a taxi. So, they catch ZR’s or buses. So, if [Uber] were to come here now I do not know how it would work really. I think having local people using their cars to pick up other people obviously would affect everybody that is in the taxi business in a negative way,” he told Barbados TODAY.
Yarde was of the opinion that Uber would be a waste of time as most taxi operators receive work from trusted clientele, some of whom have been transported by a particular taxi for years.
“You find the guys that are working in the local market have their own clientele and these people are faithful to them because they can trust work. Females that want to go out feting would prefer to drive with their own taxi guy that they know for years, he said, adding that some days taxi men could operate an entire day an only receive a minimum of $10 or $20.
“Uber has a good representation in the international market as it is right now; I do not know if bringing it to Barbados will make any sense as it is a waste of time. All it is going to do is confuse the whole [taxi industry] in Barbados with the amount of taxis we got that laying idle because you could be you there whole day and only make $10 or $20 a day, Yarde said.
“I think it is a backward step as far as I am concerned where the Government has decided to grant these people a permit to operate in Barbados,” he said.
Another taxi operator, who wished to be unidentified, expressed ominous feelings of the impact the San Francisco-based peer-to-peer transport company could have in Barbados but also suggested it would fail.
“I don’t feel good. Things out here hard already and then when they come it will be harder. Well, it will not only affect my one it will affect other people. I do not feel it will last long in Barbados a lot of people will not want to catch that,” he said, adding that tourists already preferred to catch the PSV’s which they refer to as the “Reggae Bus” and are not keen to take a cab.
“Up to the other day, I was driving some tourists and they said they would prefer the ‘reggae bus’ and the Transport Board bus because they like the music playing in their ears,” he said.
The taxi operator said that Government’s announcement that they would explore Uber would not benefit cab drivers whose main income is from the number of fares they receive per day.
“If Uber come, it is not going to benefit we that out here hussling trying to get a dollar to feed we family; that is [taking] bread out of we mouth,” he said.
Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds appeared to share the taxi operators’ lack of enthusiasm for the ride-sharing firm’s entry into Barbados, saying he wanted to meet with taxi operators.
“We want to meet with taxi operators within the next week or two with a view of discussing options on how to improve business. We’re not enthusiastic about Uber generally because that will allow persons with deep pockets to become dominant so we are trying to make the small man get a greater share,” the Minister said as Tourism Week began last week.
But in Broad Street, the minister’s words were met with the loud expletives of furious taxi men who were fearful of Uber’s impact on their industry while saying they were convinced it would fail here.
“Do not bring that ‘bout hey we don’t want [no] Uber; we want money. Do not bring Uber, bring ships, bring tourists that spending money,” said a taxi operator who called himself ‘Dragon Slayer’.
Another opined that as some Barbadians do not have credit cards, they would not be able to use the Uber service.
“Everybody ain’t got a credit card to book a taxi. For the very few people who goin’ benefit is the companies like Foster Ince and them, not the single man working. Them [taking] the bread out of we ‘mout’ every single day, every day. Men out here cannot see a $100 when the week come and got families to support that is nonsense. People want to see money in their hand first before you think of bringing anything else in Barbados,” he said.
Still another taxi operator, identified as ‘PG’ said that Uber’s implementation would be disadvantageous to Barbados as it would come on top of higher fuel prices which the taxi drivers say have already bitten into their daily take-home pay.
“My first job was a little after 10 and that was just a $10 job. Come across here and looking again to see if anybody would need a taxi and see if I get a job…. When you do get a job and it is just a $15 or $20 it goes back in gas and you have nothing on your hands,” she said, adding that day to day operations would become rougher if Uber were to set up shop here.
“It is going to be real rough because it is very, very,, very tight,” she said.
“You cannot expect to bring outside life or outside living to run Barbados the same way. Because things are real rough here, you have to be making money to going to the store to buy things,” said PG.
But fellow taxi operator, Ian, noted that the taxi operators already have a system similar to Uber’s meter system as they deem their rates based on the distance traveled.
“If Uber come here what we are offering is the same thing as a fare thing. So it will be a competition between us and Uber,” he said, adding that taxi operators may have to pay Uber a fee, which may not beneficial to operators.
“Another thing is that we would have to give Uber a fee; I feel it is not going to work,” he said.
In Heroes Square, one taxi operator said that he was hurt that after voting for the Barbados Labour Party administration it had announced a fuel tax and allowed the possibility of Uber which he believes is unfair to taxi operators.
“It is not fair to we! We now have to pay more for gas. We have too many taxis on the road already. Everybody got to live but if you bring in Uber the taxi men in Heroes Square are not for it!” he sternly told Barbados TODAY.
But taxi operator John Nelson said that he believed Uber would bring change to public transport.
“I do believe it would change the transport system in Barbados. I believe there will be some fallout as it relates to taxi operators and so on but I do not know. It has never been tried here before. I do not think that Taxi drivers will be willing to be incorporated with Uber. To be honest, I do not know,” Nelson, said.