New app-only taxi company starts up in Charlottetown
P.E.I. Online Taxi looks like a ride-booking app, but is a licensed taxi stand
If you want to book a ride with P.E.I. Online Taxi, there's no dispatcher you can call. The new taxi company in Charlottetown does all bookings through an app, which allows customers to track their ride in real-time on a map.
The system looks a lot like popular ride-booking apps like Uber and Lyft — but despite appearances, P.E.I. Online Taxi is a licensed taxi stand, and is aiming to offer the convenience of an app, without disrupting the taxi industry.
"Unfortunately small towns and cities, they cannot absorb ride-sharing," said owner and director Osama Abdoh.
"It's a very fragile market."
Making booking simple
Many in Charlottetown have had the experience of being unable to book a taxi during peak hours, particularly late at night. Abdoh said tracking cars through an app makes the experience more convenient for customers.
"You don't need to wait, you don't need to do multiple calls, different companies," Abdoh said.
"Which is fair enough. It's not the fault of any existing … taxi company. It's just the fact they're overwhelmed with the demand."
Abdoh has hired several full-time drivers, and hopes to hire more as his business ramps up. For driver Mike Fitzpatrick, the ability for passengers to know when their ride will show up, and to offer feedback through the app, was part of the appeal.
"I was attracted to their system, which I think will make the industry better, you know as far as professionalism and accountability."
Plans to add more drivers
There have been calls on P.E.I. to allow ride-booking on the Island — systems that don't follow all the same rules as a taxi stand.
The minister of transportation has said he supports bringing ride-booking to P.E.I., and the province said it is doing research to determine what legislative changes would be needed in order to make that happen.
But like many taxi owners, Abdoh worries allowing ride-booking without limits would hurt cab companies and full-time drivers — by flooding the market.
He would, however, like to see the province and the city ease the requirements for obtaining a taxi operator licence, in order to make it less costly.
Down the road, he would like to hire additional part-time drivers to help meet the demand during the busiest times.
"The market should see a full coverage during peak hours, as well as low hours, equally. And that's what we're missing at the moment."