Mon | Sep 20, 2021

Uber coming to fail, says transport boss Egeton Newman

Published:Wednesday | March 31, 2021 | 4:23 PM
Newman: “Any Uber service coming to Jamaica, mark my word, it’s coming to fail. Jamaica is not ready for Uber-type service.”

Carl Gilchrist and Shanna Monteith, Gleaner Writers

President of the Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services (TODSS), Egeton Newman, is warning that if ride-sharing service Uber comes to Jamaica, it has no chance of success because of the nature of the transport sector in the country.

“Any Uber service coming to Jamaica, mark my word, it’s coming to fail. Jamaica is not ready for Uber-type service,” Newman told The Gleaner Tuesday afternoon. 

“Uber, in various parts of the world, use private vehicles also. My organisation, which has the loudest mouth in Jamaica, will not approve or agree with any transportation [service] that engages private vehicles.”  

Newman said that after several failed attempts to establish a Uber-type service in Jamaica involving TODSS and other entities, his organisation is not interested in joining the United States-based company at this time. 

One such effort, in 2019, was aimed at introducing an Uber-type service called ZYPPS but after immense preparation by persons in the transport sector, the authorities pulled the plug, citing the unpreparedness of the local market.   

But while his organisation might not be interested, there are others in the transport sector who might be, Newman pointed out. 

It is estimated that there are 34,000 public passenger vehicles operating in Jamaica, in addition to between 8,000 and 11,000 hackney carriage operators, most of whom operate in the Kingston Metropolitan Region, where Uber is expected to operate.  

Newman’s views seem to reflect the thinking of local transport operators who The Gleaner spoke with, as they expressed fear that they will have to take a backseat to Uber when it begins operating in Jamaica. 

The California-headquartered cab company recently shared an email inviting car owners to sign-up to join drivers across over 700 cities worldwide in which it operates. 

READ: Uber signals pulling into Jamaica’s lane

Saturated 

Speaking with The Gleaner, one operator employed to El Shaddai, one of the popular express taxi services within the Corporate Area, shared that Uber may cause further distress to the already crammed industry. 

“Dem aguh tek a big chunk out of it [customers]. Whenever new companies come a lot of people usually try it out... especially young people and those who guh foreign guh experience it already so it aguh mash we up,” he said. 

The operator, who said that he has been operating for over seven years, shared that the cutting-edge technology offered by Uber will pose the biggest threat to local companies. 

According to him, “It aguh affect we especially technology-wise because we no really get on to them things deh yet and most people want to use card and a lot of taxi company is straight cash.  Me quick to learn enuh so mi a watch and see what a gwaan… if dem will get more work then I’m willing to apply because mi quick to learn and it makes no sense you stay in one position for too long.” 

A taxi operator picks up passengers on Knutsford Boulevard in New Kingston on Tuesday. With reports of ride-share service Uber seeking to enter the local market, taxi operators may face stiff competition in the future.
In Photo: A taxi operator picks up passengers on Knutsford Boulevard in New Kingston on Tuesday, March 30, 2021. 

From the comfort of their homes or wherever they are, commuters are able to access the Uber app, input their destination, review ride options including vehicle size, price, and estimated drop-off time as well as choose and confirm pickup. 

A nearby driver then sees and chooses to accept the rider’s request, automatically notifying the rider when the vehicle is about a minute away.

The app also provides the driver with the option to access turn-by-turn directions. 

Big Change

Over in St Thomas, Carl Brown, who operates in and around the Yallahs area, also foresees that the introduction of this digitised mode of travel will completely write-off existing transportation services, especially in Kingston. 

Customer service too, according to Brown, may also be that deciding factor. 

“It aguh mash up the town taxi system big time… Dem aguh likely train dem drivers how to deal with passengers. Nuff a dem driver here cuss and smoke and people don’t like that. 

If it come ah St Thomas, then a lot of drivers going to be in problem. Dem cyah mash up me though because my thing set. I move when the phone ring so mi a my own Uber already. In other words, whenever mi carry the last passenger mi park until my phone ring again,” he shared. 

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