SULLIVAN: B.C. taxi industry newest member of disrupted club

So ride-hailing has finally come to Metro Vancouver. Now, if you want to get from the SeaBus to Tiddleycove, there’s an app for that.

Even now, after a multi-year wait, Lyft has yet to establish itself on the North Shore, and Uber doesn’t go west of 25th in Dundarave.

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After that, there be monsters, apparently.

But despite the ferocious lobbying of the taxi industry, you can now get to there from here and back again. An Uber ride arrives faster, costs less and can be tracked on the Uber app. No more plaintive calls to a distracted taxi dispatcher who may or may not send a cab in your direction.

Ideas like Uber, which demonstrably work better than an established service, are called “disruptive.”

Think Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, the original Disruptor, who figured out how to establish and run a virtually infinite mall that sells anything you could ever want 24 hours a day, complete with home delivery, at a discount.

It’s called a Disruptor for obvious reasons. It disrupts the hell out of anything standing in its way. And along its way, Amazon has disrupted reading, listening to music, eating, sleep, sex, soup, nuts. It has also, inadvertently perhaps, spawned the Porch Pirate.

Of course, people who steal your stuff right off your porch aren’t the only downside to the Disruptor. Bezos has single-handedly generated the Retail Apocalypse, a daily reality in malls around the world.

Amazon may be the mother of all disruptors, but it’s not the only one. My own business, the news business, has been disrupted to a shadow of its former self. Newspapers are the hardest hit – who wants to buy old news printed on a ground-up tree? (Present company excepted!) It’s barely one step beyond the stone tablet as a medium of communication.

Instead you can turn to a news app for local, regional, national and international news instantly as it happens, any time, anywhere. You can even get fake news, which looks like real news, just isn’t.

Then there’s Airbnb. Don’t get me started.

The point is that wherever you look, disruptors are at work. And nobody (or hardly anyone) is mourning the loss of the retail and media industries and the thousands of jobs lost along with them, never to be recovered.

Then there’s the taxi industry.

Somehow, this doughty band of monopolists managed to hold off the disruptor onslaught in Vancouver for years. Uber is nothing new – it’s been around for 10 years – but the taxi lobby has been very effective in keeping Uber from turning up at the curb.

And they haven’t given up yet. They keep trying to sue Uber and Lyft for being unfair (the very essence of being a disruptor), complaining that their licenses don’t cost as much as a taxi licence, that their service isn’t as safe, and various other arguments that may even make sense. They even launched their own ride-hailing app, which is kind of like Fake Uber (see Fake News above).

But it doesn’t matter. The only guy they convinced is Doug McCallum, the mayor of Surrey, who’s noticed that taxi drivers vote as a bloc and that there are many taxi drivers who live in Surrey.

So Doug has drawn a line in the sand, declaring: “Again, a large amount [sic] of our residents in the city of Surrey do not support ride-hailing.” Unfortunately polls tell a different story. A Mainstreet survey puts the number in Surrey supporting ride-hailing at 78 per cent, and the Surrey Board of Trade says 90 per cent of its members support ride-hailing. And in the courts, where it really counts, ride-hailing prevails again and again.

Don’t mess with the Disruptor.

On the only front that matters, human convenience, ride-hailing prevails.

Ironically, as ride-hailing finally disrupts traffic in Vancouver, the man who coined the term “disruptive innovation” has succumbed to the one thing that can stop it – the Grim Disruptor. Death is like the honey badger … he doesn’t give a s*** about anything. In fact, never mind Jeff Bezos, Death is the Original Disruptor. Irresistible.

Clayton Christensen died at the end of January, a relatively young 67. While he was alive, he schooled great Disruptors like Steve Jobs, who brought us the iPhone and made possible all its little apps, including Uber and Lyft. Jobs said Christensen’s book The Investor’s Dilemma was the only business book on his must-read list. Which he probably read on an iPad.

So I don’t know what to say to my friends the taxi drivers.

Except maybe welcome to the club and come along for the ride.

Journalist and communications consultant Paul Sullivan has been a North Vancouver resident since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise of Madonna. p.sullivan@breakthroughpr.com

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