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Uber fined € 650.000 in The Netherlands for illegal lease of taxi licences

Uber fined € 650.000 in The Netherlands for illegal lease of taxi licences

The Environment and Transport Inspection (ILT) in The Netherlands has fined Uber € 650,000 for violating the Dutch taxi legislation. Uber worked with drivers and taxi companies through a prohibited licence lease construction. The amount of € 650.000 is the remainder of a previously imposed fine of one million euros. Although Uber has been shown it has stopped the illegal construction, the Dutch authorities are still considering imposing a new, higher fine.

Via a special platform Uber offered drivers without a taxi licence the opportunity to engage in an illegal lease arrangement with taxi companies which had these licences. Licensed companies could register on this Uber platform.

On its website Uber informed the drivers without a licence how to work with the licence of a registered taxi company. The driver then leased the taxi licence from the registered taxi company. However, in The Netherlands it is illegal for a driver to use someone else’s taxi licence without being employed by the taxi company or to work as a properly self-employed operator. In this construction, the Uber taxi trips were obtained by making use of the Uber app. Uber took a 20 to 25 percent commission from the driver.

The Dutch inspectors have charged 23 Uber drivers and one taxi company which used this licensing construction. A criminal investigation has been started against all of them. The ILT thinks more companies and drivers are or have been guilty of this illegal form of taxi transportation. The ILT will be examining other cases in due course. The Inspection will impose a penalty on all relevant drivers and the taxi company involved. This means that in case of a repeat offense they each automatically have to pay the sum of € 10,000.

Since the start of Uber in The Netherlands, the ILT has interviewed or arrested more than 70 Uber drivers for illegal taxi activities. Tackling illegal taxis is a priority within the taxi policy of the Dutch government. The aim is to ensure the safe transportation of the customer and to avoid distortions of competition.

Karhoo crashes after takeover talks collapse

Karhoo crashes after takeover talks collapse

“It is with much regret that we have to announce that Karhoo has had to close its service and is now looking at the next steps for the business”, taxi comparison and booking app Karhoo announced yesterday. Karhoo is shutting down after only six months in operation in the British capital, and just weeks after it claimed to have overtaken Uber as London’s leading taxi app. Yesterday Sky News reported Karhoo was still battling to avoid crashing into administration: “The high-profile taxi-booking app is engaged in a race for new cash as it fights to stave off bankruptcy.”

The UK magazine Professional Driver reports that the closure of the company comes after the failure of an attempt to raise further capital from a private investor to stop it from going into administration. Staff have already been made redundant, as the Karhoo app has stopped functioning. It is unclear whether administrators have been appointed or not, in which case the assets could be snapped up by a rival app provider.

In a statement, Karhoo announced also: “The Karhoo staff around the world in London, New York, Singapore and Tel Aviv have, over the past 18 months, worked tirelessly to make Karhoo a success. Many of them have worked unpaid for the last six weeks in an effort to get the business to a better place.”

“Unfortunately, by the time the new management team took control last week, it was clear that the financial situation was pretty dire, and Karhoo was not able to find a backer. “We would like to thank our staff, our partners, the fleets around the world that shared our vision, and the hundreds of thousands of people who downloaded the app and supported what we were trying to do. The world needs a Karhoo.”

At the beginning of 2015 the groundwork for Karhoo was laid by Daniel Ishag. The app launched in London on May 9, 2016, and has since been rolled out into a number of other UK cities including Manchester, Birmingham and Leicester. It offered a similar click-and-hail functionality to Uber, but worked with established private hire fleets rather than individual drivers, and offered a number of extra features, including price comparison and the ability to pre-book. The roll-out in the US, in Singapore and in Europe was planned for later this year and the beginning of 2017.

Karhoo has always stated it would only work with licensed operators and as such it was exactly what some operators in the taxi and PHV industry were waiting for. There were also others, who feared it would become the Booking.com of taxis and start dictating prices and increase percentages. Some operators, particularly in Europe, where the app was not established yet, feared Karhoo would be poaching ‘their’ work instead of giving them another stab at a market already being lost to Uber et al.

In the UK some of the biggest London operators signed up, including Addison Lee, Keen Group, GLH, Swiss Cottage Cars and eConnect Cars, as well as black cab operator ComCab. Also in the rest of the country Karhoo proved very popular.

At an impressive informal pre-launch party for many of the signed-up UK operators at the top floor of the London ‘Cheesegrater’ office building earlier this year, the enthusiasm of all UK taxi and private hire fleets was palpable. Most of them were rearing to go with the app which many saw as a lifeline for the established taxi and PHV-industry and a powerful ally against Uber.

In May, founder Daniel Ishag launched Karhoo with a flourish, claiming: “We are levelling the playing field for hundreds of thousands of licensed drivers through our fleet partnerships and giving them the chance to fight back while at the same time offering customers more choice. We are giving hundreds of thousands of Davids the power and platform to take on Goliath.” Ishag told Professional Driver in April that Karhoo was “a natural evolution of the Uber system” and said Karhoo would be “spending millions and millions of pounds on marketing” in a bid to compete with the US-based app.

In October, Karhoo revealed figures for its first three months of operation in London. It claimed to have more cars in the capital than any other cab app, including Uber, and a weekly turnover of £750,000. The app was processing up to 7,000 bookings a day, Karhoo said. Inventory had risen to 33,000 cars in London and 110,000 across the UK. More than 140,000 UK users have downloaded the app and registered.

But the initial funding – one pre-launch Financial Times article mentioned (unconfirmed) initial financing to the tune of £ 250 million – appears to have run out, leaving Karhoo unable to pay suppliers and staff. According to reports, Karhoo staff received a memo last week explaining that a new backer was in talks to save the business. But the memo said the potential backer had sought “reassurances about the state of the business, as he is being asked to invest money today with no due diligence done”, the memo said. Karhoo told the staff terms were “very close to being acceptable”, though “a new hoop was thrown in the way” and this seems to have derailed the deal, despite a pledge by members of Karhoo’s management to put $600,000 of their own money into the business.

The same operators who Karhoo welcomed in one of London’s tallest office buildings at the beginning of the year, will be devastated by the collapse. Some London firms said Karhoo had been a lifeline in the battle with Uber. Nadeem Khan, who runs Cascade Cars in Wimbledon, told Professional Driver in October: “We were seeing a lot of our jobs go to Uber, but now they are coming back to us through Karhoo. The difference is that Karhoo is helping the industry while others are trying to take it over.”

Nicholas Monteith, owner of private hire firm Mornington Cars, said: “Without doubt, Karhoo is a lifesaver for the classic, licensed minicab driver. It will help protect the minicab industry and allow us to fight back, bringing us jobs that we would otherwise not have been able to access, giving us the chance of more work while giving consumers more choice. It allows us properly to compete.”

It seems that the Israel R&D office and the New York office closed well before the news was announced in London. Only recently Karhoo was the main (and lavish) sponsor of the Annual Meeting of the International Association of Transportation Regulators (IATR) in San Francisco (September 22-25) in preparation for a successful roll-out of the app in the US later this year.

“Karhoo’s financial travails come amid frenzied competition in the market for booking private car journeys on mobile phones and other digital devices”, comments Sky News. “Uber has raised more money than any other start-up company in history, and is now valued at more than $65bn. In Europe, Hailo is merging with MyTaxi following a major investment from Daimler, the German owner of Mercedes-Benz, as taxi-booking apps seek greater scale to compete. It was unclear how much additional funding Karhoo requires to have a viable future.” In the staff memo sent yesterday, Karhoo employees were informed that work was underway to secure new investment but were not told the identity of the potential new backer.

Interestingly, the troubles at Karhoo somehow put the IRU’s UpTop group of licensed and certified apps back in the limelight. After its inception, about two years ago, the initial idea to connect all UpTop-apps and make worldwide roaming possible, stalled for technical reasons. At the last IRU Taxi Forum, last weekend in Cologne, the IRU promised to “invest heavily in building a ‘Taxi Cloud’” and in the UpTop roaming capability. The UpTop-apps now connect 500.000 taxis, 12% of the world’s estimated 4,5 million taxis.

  • Who will step in? Many operators will miss Karhoo as a lifeline to often elusive work.
New, more exciting format for IRU’s 7th International Taxi Forum

New, more exciting format for IRU’s 7th International Taxi Forum

IRU’s 7th International Taxi Forum, which will be held on November 5, during the European Taxi Fair (4-5 November, Cologne Exhibition Centre) has changed its format: plenary and breakout sessions make for an interesting variation.

The European Taxi Fair would be a whole lot less international without IRU’s flagship-event, the International Taxi Forum – the 7th already. Like the European Taxi Fair it is held every two years. Not that the International Road Transport Union limits its taxi-events to this particular Forum (it organizes many more taxi seminars and conferences throughout the year), but the Cologne Forum (on Saturday November 5), always offers something special with an overview of the state of the taxi world and a look forward. No wonder it draws a wide variety of taxi specialists from all over the world.

Not just the topics discussed at this event (‘Taxi – Anytime, Anywhere 4.0’) draw these taxi operators, taxi drivers, consultants, representatives from taxi companies, associations, governments, regulators, suppliers and journalists from far and wide, interpretation in four languages (English, Spanish, Russian and German) also helps the taxi world to communicate. The Forum runs in the Kristallsaal from 09.30 to 13.30, followed by networking drinks at the IRU stand on the Trade Fair floor.

The evening before (November 4), IRU welcomes taxi colleagues in the Rhein-Terrassen Restaurant near the Rhine and the Exhibition Centre for the 3rd IRU International Taxi Business Reception. The reception starts at 18.30. There food and drink – and a great view of Cologne – create a truly positive business atmosphere to make contacts in for next days’ Forum.

This year the format of the Taxi Forum has changed. No longer held in a room which, last time, could only just hold the large attendance of 300+ taxi specialists (400 this time?), the Forum has also made changes to the format: two specialised break-out sessions are nicely sandwiched between two plenary sessions (both plenary sessions moderated by John Kidd, IRU’s Head of Communications and Events).

One plenary session deals with ‘Which are the main global market access trends?’ and the other one discusses: ‘What taxis do we want to see in 2030 and 2050?’ The latter session focuses very much on regulatory questions and a look into the near future with speakers from London, Singapore, Dubai, Russia and Norway.

In the first parallel session the main question is ‘Green taxis: sustainability equals profitability.’ Centre stage: speakers on electromobility, moderated by Ivo Cré, Deputy Director, POLIS. The second parallel session focuses on ‘Taxis, as key element of MaaS’. Here different speakers will be looking into the role of taxis in the new paradigm ‘Mobility as a Service’ (MaaS).

Not everything changes: just like last time Taxi Times and MobilityIntell support the IRU Taxi Forum as mediasponsors.

The full programme can be found here: https://www.iru.org/what-we-do/events/iru-international-taxi-forum-business-reception

Registration is necessary for both events: https://www.iru.org/apps/iforms-app?form_id=2473&lng=en&src=email

  • IRU’s 7th International Taxi Forum draws an international crowd to Cologne.
New BUS2BUS-show in Germany

New BUS2BUS-show in Germany

The countdown to the first BUS2BUS is running. In six months, on 25 and 26 April 2017, the bus and supplier industry will be able to use an independent business platform for its customers in Germany. BUS2BUS will be held in Berlin, the hotspot of the bus sector. BUS2BUS is organized jointly by Messe Berlin and the Federal Association of German Bus Operators (BDO) e.V. The new show will be held every two years and brings bus operators together with bus manufacturers, suppliers, service providers and visionaries.

BUS2BUS combines three ‘impulse moments’: the market place, the already established bdo congress and the ‘Future Forum’. The market square is the central point of contact for trade visitors. Many programme topics of the Future Forum can be found there, as well as all networking events of the BDO congress.

At the BDO congress, economic trends and political topics are discussed next to strategies for the promotion of public transport, travel and long-distance buses. The connecting element between marketplace and bdo congress is the Future Forum. Workshops, technology events, pitches and keynotes on ‘Sustainable mobility’, ‘Autonomous driving concepts’ and ‘Innovative Services’ will provide strong impulses for the industry.

More information? www.bus2bus.berlin.

  • Bus2Bus unites the bus and coach industry and its suppliers.
IATR regulators meet in the ‘Belly of the Beast’

IATR regulators meet in the ‘Belly of the Beast’

This year the International Association of Transportation Regulators (IATR) landed in San Francisco, the ‘Belly of the Beast’ – as IATR-president Matt Daus put it. The heart of Uber-country and a state (California) which likes to experiment: with statewide app-licensing and GPS-meters for instance. Next year will be even better as Austin (Texas), which banned Uber earlier this year, will be the conference host. ‘How do we see the future as licensing authorities?’ – was the burning question at this, IATR’s 29th annual meeting.

“Your Uber waits outside” beckoned the big posters at the airport. Welcome to San Francisco! Instead, I chose a taxi. The driver with a hood that completely covered his head, remained behind the wheel and made no effort to help. How do you mean – quality problems in the taxi industry?

His company –traditionally called DeSoto – had been renamed to the name of an app – Flywheel – and the cab painted app-red. The driver only spoke to explain how his integrated Flywheel terminal (communication centre, GPS meter, card reader, navigation and payment system – all in one) worked. “All you need in one box.” How did he see the taxi trade in San Francisco? “I give it a year before all taxi companies are bankrupt. Uber and Lyft have taken over everything.”

The most notable and impressive speech came from keynote speaker Patricia Gatling, a former New York City Commissioner for Human Rights and the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the governor of New York State. In her powerful presentation she reminded the audience of the need to offer everyone access to transport – without restrictions. Not just people with reduced mobility, but also those living in parts of the city which have no easy access to taxis, Ubers or other means of transport. And those who have no credit card. She insisted the whole transport sector must make its contribution to the protection of the environment, for all industry segments to be regulated in the proper way and warned against creating low-cost gig-type jobs like Uber and Lyft do.

An impressive argument for a level playing field and proper regulation of the entire transport system. Unfortunately -under pressure from Uber & Co’s well-funded lobbying machine more than half of the US states already opted for a looser regulation of apps – Transportation Network Companies (TNC’s) at state level. While states are not equipped for this task, taxis and (some) for hire cars (FHV) are still under strict local regulatory control.

What are the key elements for regulators these days? Safety is an important issue, with many cities opting for a ‘Vision Zero’ approach to road safety copied from Sweden. Add to that: better access for each form of transportation to each part of the city, more sustainable and more efficient forms of transport linking elements of taxi, FHV, TNC’s in new forms of public transport such as Bridj and Chariot. In cities like Boston, Kansas City and San Francisco these freely roaming app-controlled forms of microtransit provide the new public transport. MaaS – Mobility as a Service was hailed as a new and innovative subscription-based approach which should be regulated as a platform.

Or, as one speaker put it, “Being innovative is not good enough. Is the transport safe and meeting our requirements? And when we are looking at taxi regulation, what rules do we really need? Ideally taxis should support public transport. Unfortunately the taxi sector is very fragmented in San Francisco.” Still, San Francisco looked critically at its own taxi rules and concluded that there was a lot of ‘dead wood’ that could be cut. Fewer rules could well work in favour of the taxi sector, as examples from Seattle and Washington DC showed.

Professor Susan Shaheen has been following shared transportation for 20 years. She commented that “TNC’s are no ride-sharing, because they are paid trips. We have different terms we use and it’s high time to redefine them. The transport environment is changing rapidly, especially if we look at shared and connected cars. I would encourage people from the taxi sector to think about the future and the role that you can and want to play. The new mobility allows us to reorganize the city and make it more liveable and sustainable.” Taxis should be more widely shared where and when legally possible.

Both regulators and the taxi industry have a lot to think about. “Who are we as regulators? Do we have a code of ethics, for instance?” asked Tom Drischler, former Los Angeles regulator and stepping down as IATR vice-president. “Where are we going as regulators? Often our regulations are too strict and don’t apply to all forms of transport equally.” Speaking for the taxi sector Blair Davies (Australian Taxi Industry Association-ATIA) said “we have to think ‘outside the box’. Ask ourselves questions about some of our industry’s rules and practices”

That was exactly what Dwight Kines (Transdev), representing the Taxicab Limousine and Paratransit Association (TLPA), meant when he said his taxi members were busily working on a new business model that sometimes copies TNC-behaviour. Why not add TNC-drivers to the fleet at busy times under the company’s own app? And provide a better taxi quality, have a more competitive pricing structure, better marketing and cheaper dispatching?”

Two super-interesting sessions unfortunately ran parallel: the regulation of TNC’s at airports and the use of GPS meters – basically apps which compute the fare on the basis of GPS-coordinates. Major US airports have already embraced Uber & Co as source of extra income from fees and created space for them.

On the ‘meter-front’ the American metrology people are closely following the Flywheel-experiment using its GPS-terminal as a meter.

The quest for the Universal app – an app that works for different types of transport and gives the user different choices – was the last agenda item. But before that local licensing authorities had the chance to give a glimpse into their local cuisine.

Kate Toran had gone through her taxi regulations in San Francisco and wondered aloud why we regulate transport. Answer: because of security, accessibility, durability, good customer service and to correct an imperfect market. Tracey Cook (Toronto) described the tumultuous way her city had finally decided to regulate TNC’s despite furious objections from the taxi sector. Helen Chapman described the latest measures of Transport for London taken at the instigation of Sadiq Khan, the new taxi-friendly mayor of London: language tests for rental car (Uber-)drivers, card and contactless payment terminals in taxis (this autumn), changing the famous Knowledge into an official and formal education, more taxi ranks in the city and later – from 2020 – the greenest taxis in the world when the heart of London becomes an Ultra Low Emission Zone. There is about 65 million pound (€ 72 million) available to help the taxi trade switch over smoothly.

Singapore’s Jenny Teo said the rise of TNC’s had been beneficial for commuters who failed getting a cab during the rush hours. With its seven taxi companies and 28,000 taxis, the city-state is already well served with taxis. Next year, all PHV must be officially licensed and follow strict rules. Teo ended by saying “I’m trying very hard to make the taxis and TNC’s work together harmoniously. (Laughs). Wish me luck.”

Back to the airport, I take a taxi – what else? This driver was the exact mirror image of the one who picked me up on arrival: friendly, interested, informative. Of course, we talked about Uber & Co: “Yeah, they’re killing the industry. From the airport you would have paid 30 dollars with Uber. With me it’s about 42. But not everyone finds apps and private drivers equally charming.” (Wim Faber)

  • IATR’s Annual: this year in San Francisco – the birthplace of Uber – next year Auston, where Uber was banned. Symbolic?
Skift: “Traditional car services won’t disappear from corporate travel anytime soon”

Skift: “Traditional car services won’t disappear from corporate travel anytime soon”

In a Skift-article Andrew Sheivachman suggest that, despite the inroads Uber & Co have made in the corporate travel sector, the business model of traditional car services providing ground transportation to companies is still strong. “What needs to be seen is whether car services will widely adopt more user-friendly interfaces for hailing cars on demand.”

If all you did was read news reports and listen to the raves of fellow travelers, you would probably think that ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft are rapidly putting traditional car services out of business. The reality, however, is more complicated.

The “Taxi & Limousine Services in the U.S.” report from IBISWorld shows that luxury and sedan corporate car services account for 13.9 percent of the total ecosystem, while taxis account for about two-thirds of the market. But car service use is on the rise in general, after losing ground to ridesharing services from 2012 to 2015, according to the report. Regardless, revenue and employees grew over the same time period when car services and taxi companies lost market share to ridesharing. It pegs the segment’s revenue at $19.6 billion with a $1.7 billion profit, showing how expensive it is to run a car service company.

“Over the next five years, industry performance will continue to depend on rising corporate profit and consumer spending on domestic travel,” states the report. “Ride-hailing apps will continue to represent the bulk of industry growth as they expand to new regions. However, IBISWorld expects greater legal and regulatory scrutiny of these transport networks over the next five years, as certain local governments attempt to curb their expansion. Over the five years to 2021, industry revenue is forecast to grow at an annualized rate of 3.8 percent to $23.6 billion.”

So how do you square up the emergence of Uber and Lyft at a time when car services have fallen out of the limelight, but appear to be growing steadily in terms of financials?

The primacy of car services in the corporate travel space could have something to do with it, and they’re not happy about the near-daily reports on ridesharing drivers being involved in crime and other mishaps. One of the biggest groups of car service companies in the country will soon roll out on demand technology similar to Uber, in order to appeal to business travelers and others who are fans of the new model.

“People that matter in corporations are following the liability trail,” said Scott Solombrino, president of DavEl/Boston Coach and head of the National Limousine Association. “The problem with Uber and Lyft is that they think private greed is more important than public safety… It’s going to be more expensive on demand; we’re going to do the same thing they’re doing in our own pricing structure, then we’ll see what happens in the corporate world. There’s nothing wrong with innovation. We can’t compete on a pricing model, because we’re restricted to pay people properly.”

When asked, Solombrino says he doesn’t regret not thinking up Uber’s on demand interface years ago. But he is certain that car sharing’s marketshare in the corporate space will begin to rise once again. “I don’t know how it plays out, but I know they’re not going to go unchallenged much longer and they only have market share to lose,” said Solombrino. “The clients who use us today want to use us. I don’t worry about losing business to Uber, it already happened. Now, Uber drivers come to us to be professional chauffeurs. The battle we haven’t won is the battle of public opinion, where people think car services are stodgy and for really rich people.”

Ridesharing does have a formidable foothold in corporate travel. Certify’s newly released report on ridesharing shows that services like Uber and Lyft may now control more than half of the national corporate ground transportation market, a mammoth increase from eight percent in Q1 2014. Taxi expenditure is down 63 percent over the same period.(Certify’s numbers don’t include traditional car services, due to the difficulty of categorizing the fragmented group of providers around the country.)

“People are already overwhelmingly choosing ridesharing in their personal life and we see this consumerization of people’s professional lives,” said David Baga, chief business officer of Lyft. “They’re favoring Lyft for the flexibility, the convenience and a better customer experience. Companies are hearing that loud and clear, and they’re trying to get out in front of it. We’re seeing a relative increase in the velocity in how quickly decisions are being made around corporate travel.”

Solombrino and Baga squared off on the conflict between car services and ridesharing at this year’s GBTA conference, with the travel managers on hand expressing support for ridesharing’s ease and tracking features. Baga says that companies are now more comfortable with making ridesharing a part of their corporate travel policy, despite questions remaining surrounding exactly how drivers are vetted from a security standpoint.

“Just like the same way that they evaluated traditional ground transportation, they have a lot of questions about understanding who the drivers are, how they’re selected, what criteria we use to ensure we have the right people in the Lyft platform, and how insurance works,” said Baga. “There’s a lot of misconceptions around ridesharing and these questions open them up to seeing that in most cases you’re actually getting more consistent coverage around the company [using ridesharing] than sending employees out in taxis, making it a choose your own adventure.”

The next step for ridesharing services to become further embedded in corporate travel is baking access into corporate travel management apps on the API level. “One thing that I’m excited about is we have a vision of transportation that is delivered as a service, so one of the critical underpinnings of that is our tech platform being developed to be really accessible for a variety of different use cases,” said Baga. “We are extending that API to be able to really deliver on that promise by allowing other third party apps to consume the Lyft API and create a service where travelers are already working.”

  • NLA-president Scott Solombrino: “The battle we haven’t won is the battle of public opinion, where people think car services are stodgy and for really rich people.”
ITF-Transport unions seek common Uber-approach

ITF-Transport unions seek common Uber-approach

Nearly 40 trade unionists from 19 countries representing almost every continent presented their country’s Uber-experiences and explored a common approach as International Transport Worker’s Federation (ITF). The IRU (presenting its UpTop activities) and a member from the European Parliament joined the meeting.

On September 20 and 21 ITF held its Second Uber Strategy Meeting, this time in Antwerp. Host Frank Moreels, president of BTB Belgium and vice-chair of ITF’s road transport section, opened the meeting by saying that “Uber and other app-based models promote themselves to passengers as innovative, but are based on deregulation, destabilisation, disrespect for workers, ignoring legislation, not paying taxes or contributing to social security.”

“Uber acts like a ‘hidden’ employer”, he added. “Communicating with clients and workers by mail, by text. Uber drivers are hired and fired by e-mail, contracts are signed electronically.” But at the same time Moreels didn’t spare the taxi trade: “Traditional taxi operators need to up their own game in terms of respecting their drivers and innovating to meet passengers’ expectations, if they are to meet the challenges of the Uber business model.”

The meeting, hosted jointly by ITF Belgian affiliates BTB and ACV Transcom, examined how Uber Technologies and other taxi/courier app firms like Lyft and Gett are increasing their market share in many countries. The companies promote themselves purely as electronic marketplaces that connect customers and drivers using mobile apps, often illegally, in conflict with existing taxi service regulations.

Each union representative presented an update of Uber’s and union-activities in their respective countries. An inspiring mix. Some unions seemed to be at the beginning of the ‘Uber-road’, others had experienced Uber and similar apps for longer. Participants shared their experiences of wins against Uber in cities like Austin, Texas (USA); Brussels, Buenos Aires and Copenhagen. Although they differed on the most efficient way to fight the apps, they all agreed that Uber could influence politicians to find other ways to re-enter cities it had been banned in.

Every union had initially started its campaign with demonstrations using taxis blocking the roads in order to make the public aware of the dangers of Uber and the unfair competition to the taxi trade. Most found these actions quickly backfired and lost them the goodwill of the public, stuck in long traffic jams. Most unions also found that these demos were hijacked by their opponent, drawing attention to the ‘unreliable cabbies.’

Unions have since built national coalitions with other partners in the transport sector, started lobbying politicians and used the courts to sue Uber & Co together with groups of drivers. Both sides can influence politicians, despite the fact that the ‘app-people’ have much deeper pockets to finance armies of lobbyists.

Danish union 3F followed a very different approach. They created Poul Uberman, when they found it was difficult to explain to the Danish public what could possibly be wrong with a tech-savvy company which supplies them with friendly drivers, cheap and quick rides and perhaps even with a bottle of water….

“No, Uber, it’s not just an app” is the slogan on the website www.uberman.dk and the YouTube-commercials. Why? “Uber is damaging Danish welfare”, claims 3F.

For instance, the site features a video in which fictitious Uber user Poul Uberman – a Danish comedian – visits his elderly mother in a residential home, enthusiastic about how he came by Uber, taking advantage of its cheap prices whilst moaning about the poor conditions in his mother’s home. “You see, it’s not a Danish company. They’re in a tax haven. The drivers put the money straight in their pockets, so it’s half price!” explains Uberman enthusiastically. The video also gives some insight into Uber’s business and tax practices: unregulated vehicles, drivers without proper security checks, tax-evasion.

Since May, when the series of videos started, Uberman has become a cult figure, generating a lot of discussion on social media. “Poul Uberman is someone who thinks it’s very smart to save lots of money by using Uber, but he doesn’t understand why there’s not enough money for his mother to eat decent food or take a bath every day,” Jan Villadsen, chairperson for 3F transport, told Danish TV2. “Just because you have a smart concept, a smart name and a smart app, it doesn’t mean that you are smart, good and fair to everybody in Danish society,” Villadsen said.

Meanwhile, Bhairavi Desai from the New York Taxi Workers’ Alliance commented that it was vital to win the trust of TNC and taxi workers alike to develop union campaigns. “Unions need to share global strategies based on universal principles to protect workers against the predatory ‘Ubernomics’ business model, which is destroying full time work and replacing it with ‘sub-minimum poverty gigs’.

But with autonomous vehicles looming at the horizon, the transport workers union are certainly in a pickle: what will remain of their member base. Who will be left working in the taxi industry? Or driving a bus? What will happen with these jobs?

Concluding the meeting, ITF road transport section vice-chair Frank Moreels said: “Unions are certainly not against computer technology in the taxi sector. What we are against is these companies undermining public safety and the jobs of real, regulated taxi drivers by bypassing regulations and refusing liability in the case of accidents. That is why unions across the globe have come together and agreed some common steps to take.”

Around 700 unions, representing more than 4.5 million transport workers from 150 countries, are members of the International Transport Workers’ Federation. Every part of the world is represented by the ITF and taxi drivers throughout the world have a say in the ITF. Uber is present in more than 205 cities in 45 countries across six continents. (Wim Faber)

  • Nearly 40 trade unionists from 19 countries presented their country’s Uber-experiences and explored a common approach as International Transport Worker’s Federation (ITF).
Brussels to host second ‘Destinations for All World Summit’ for accessible tourism

Brussels to host second ‘Destinations for All World Summit’ for accessible tourism

Quebec-based organization Kéroul and Belgium’s Collectif Accessibilité Wallonie-Bruxelles (CAWaB) are pleased to announce that the second edition of the Destinations for All World Summit will be taking place in Brussels in the Fall of 2018. The aim of the event is to give concrete expression to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Recommendations on Accessible Tourism.

The first edition of the Summit was held in Montréal in October 2014, under the auspices of Kéroul and with the involvement of the UNWTO, UN, European Network for Accessible Tourism and ICAO, among others. With more than 360 participants from 31 countries having come out to share their knowledge and experience, the event wrapped up with the adoption of the A World for Everyone declaration.

Available in 10 languages, this declaration features 40 specific measures for implementing the UNWTO Recommendations on Accessible Tourism globally and locally. It is a veritable plan for action on the local, national and international scales to promote the accessibility of infrastructure, buildings, tourist services as well as transportation services.

With the Western population aging and the benefits of including disabled people in all facets of society, the tourism, culture and transportation sectors have no choice but to fully welcome and adequately serve all citizens, and to be particularly attentive to the needs of elderly and physically disabled people. Moreover, in

September 2015, the UN adopted new Sustainable Development Goals recognizing accessibility and the inclusion of persons with disabilities as principles of sustainable development.

The second edition of the Destinations for All World Summit will provide the opportunity to assess progress made since 2014 and move closer to an international standard of accessibility, information sharing, practices and services for persons with disabilities. In conjunction with this event for trade professionals, there will also be an accessible vacations show for the general public, wherein visitors will learn more about the world’s accessible tourist destinations.

As the respective chairs of Kéroul and CAWaB, Isabelle Ducharme and Vincent Snoeck will co-chair the second Destinations for All World Summit on behalf of their organizations.

  • Isabelle Ducharme (Kéroul) will be co-host.


IRU-report emphasizes door-to-door collective transport

IRU-report emphasizes door-to-door collective transport

Presented at the UN Habitat III Conference in Quito (October 17-20), the report, “Contribution on Smart Urban Mobility for Safe, Inclusive, Resilient and Sustainable Cities”, emphasises the importance of door-to-door collective passenger transport, with a key role for buses, coaches and taxis. It outlines a roadmap to achieve sustainable urban mobility for all, with clear policy and business targets, including national and local mobility plans. 

Through a multi-stakeholder initiative, the Global Partnership for Sustainable Transport (GPST), IRU will play a role as a key enabler in achieving the transport-related UN 2030 sustainable development goals and climate change objectives. 

A worldwide programme of IRU-initiated regional public-private expert sustainability think-tanks (high level groups) will feed into policy on managing increasing demand for mobility within the context of technological development and urban growth.

Joan Clos, Under-Secretary-General, United Nations and Executive Director, UN-Habitat comments: “Transport must remain at the heart of urban planning, providing sustainable solutions to mobility needs through the introduction of transport systems that focus on access, safety and efficiency. The IRU’s efforts through its various initiatives are making an important contribution towards smarter and more sustainable mobility.”

Umberto de Pretto, IRU Secretary General, says: “The unprecedented challenge of urbanisation poses critical questions for global mobility: how best to support trade, tourism, economic growth, jobs, safety, the environment and the world’s communities? IRU is committed to innovation and strategic investment in the bus, coach and taxi sectors – and we are excited to be leading this effort.”

In response to the call for a transformation in mobility policy by Habitat III’s “New Urban Agenda” conference theme, the publication was launched at a special session on “Transport and Mobility”, with presentations at several other events during the Habitat III Conference. 

At the event, IRU revealed new transport innovations for sustainable and efficient transport by road.

Campaigns to set sustainable transport agendas and action plans include IRU’s global Smart Move Campaign, promoting an increase in collective door-to-door passenger transport worldwide (specifically bus and coach) as a solution to traffic congestion and pollution. IRU’s electric taxi initiative and UpTop, the global taxi network, are examples of the commitment to lead innovation that will underpin sustainable road transport. 

IRU’s participation at the event also emphasises the importance of road transport for passengers and goods and reaffirms the UN’s conviction that sustainable transport is key to achieving its global sustainable development goals.

  • IRU stresses the importance of collective door-to-door transport.
Bloomberg/McKinsey report: Electric vehicles could be standard by 2030

Bloomberg/McKinsey report: Electric vehicles could be standard by 2030

A new report states that 60 percent of all vehicles on the road might be electric by 2030. In that year, electric vehicles may account for two-thirds of all cars on the road in cities in developed countries, this recently released report says. The increase in EVs can be pinned to lower technological costs, consumer interest in ride-sharing, and tighter regulations on emissions, according to the report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) and McKinsey & Co, seeks to produce a vision of what urban mobility will look like in 15 years. “The individual traveler is at the heart of this evolution, so consumers will need to be open to adopting new technologies and services,” the report says. “However, both the public and private sectors will have roles to play in paving the way.”

In an effort to lower greenhouse gas emissions, governments around the world are attempting to introduce EVs through subsidies and tax breaks, while at the same time creating low-emission zones. The report also notes that technology costs surrounding EVs are falling drastically: the price of a lithium-ion battery pack dropped 65 percent from 2010 to 2015, and they are expected to drop further to below $100 per kilowatt in the next ten years.

“In the near term, it is likeliest to emerge in densely populated, high-income cities such as Chicago, Hong Kong, London, and Singapore,” the report says. “EVs become far more common, spurred by economics, consumer interest, incentives, and the creation of low-emission zones.”

The report notes that EVs are a “direct threat” to vehicles that run on fossil fuels. “The automotive sector faces a future that could be fundamentally different from its past and may need to consider moving from using a pure product-ownership model toward providing a range of transportation services,” it says, adding that gasoline retailers should be considering how to monetize current assets, while at the same time considering how to get future value from electric charging, as well as fleet services.

Read the report: https://about.bnef.com/white-papers/integrated-perspective-future-mobility/

  • Electric vehicles standard by 2030?