News / Calgary

Calgary cabs drop in demand after 2015 economy barrels downward

Brokers see more people looking to drive to supplement income

It's getting easier to catch a cab now that the economy has slowed. Company owners say demand has dropped.

Metro File Photo

It's getting easier to catch a cab now that the economy has slowed. Company owners say demand has dropped.

Hailing a cab in the city shouldn't be hard, as demand in trips plummeted down last year amid a tough economy.

Drivers picked up fewer customers last year over 2014 – about 1 million fewer people hopped into a taxi which is a drop of about 11.1 per cent. The drop in demand resulted in a 0.7 per cent decrease in drivers' hourly wage and brokers are saying the only remedy is a higher price in oil.

"Bring back $100 oil, and you know what, the city will come back to life pretty quick," said Kurt Enders, president of Checker Cabs. "There's not much we can do, if people don't have jobs and they don't have money to take a taxi or to go out or go socializing, restaurants can't get people through the door, it's a cycle we just have to unfortunately ride out."

The cab industry has been in a steady decline over last year with the first quarter's ridership down six per cent and then a 16 per cent drop in the third quarter of 2015.

Although concerning, the news doesn't come as a surprise for cab brokers.

"The problem with this industry is it's an upsidedown industry," said Roger Richard, of Associated Cabs. "In this industry when there's a downturn everybody stays in and everybody wants to come (on as a driver to supplement income). You've got a growing industry in the recession, that's the opposite of any other business, and it creates a lot of problems – especially for the full time drivers."

As for Uber's imminent return to Calgary, both said they're ready for a level playing field – which isn't necessarily what administration is presenting to council on Feb. 22.

"We'll compete with anybody and everybody," said Richard. "The economy as a whole is what's really scary, a lot of people are suffering."

Enders said if the economy is good there should be enough pie for everyone to survive and be successful in, but Uber's effects won't be known until they've surpassed hurdles and entered the market.

"I'm not in 100 per cent support of what administration is putting forward, I think they've missed the mark and could have done a better job," said Enders. "Our future lies in their hands."

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