Phone app connects driver and passenger in ride sharing systems. (Wikimedia Commons)

Phone app connects driver and passenger in ride sharing systems. (Wikimedia Commons)

Editorial: Closing the barn door after the Uber has left

Governments need to stop playing catch-up and get ahead of new economic realities

Ride sharing is already in our community. It usually starts with “Can I get a ride downtown?” and escalates to offers and requests in the classifieds.

But if we’re talking ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft, they’re probably on their way too. The expansion of the ride-sharing economy has been nothing short of incredible. Regulations may have slowed that growth, but at this stage, nothing is going to put it in reverse.

The province has announced plans to take action on the spread of illegal ride-hailing services, ones that are seeking to provide commercial transportation services without respecting provincial laws and regulations.

It’s already too late for that – ever chipped in for gas when a friend gives you a ride? We’re joking, of course, but it is going to be hard for the province to crack down on a ride-sharing app/service unless they are making a whole bunch of noise about recruiting drivers.

It’s a little like marijuana “dispensaries.” We’re at a stage now that unless a sustained, and expensive, push is made to close pot shops and enforce current laws, more will just keep popping up until it is finally legalized in the summer.

Likewise, the competitive advantages enjoyed by ride-sharing services – and other disrupters, like AirBNB – means they aren’t going away. And if you think Uber is changing the face of transportation, just watch as self-driving vehicles start hitting the market over the next decade.

In that case, taxi services would probably be able to do away with drivers and collect greater profits on their new fleets. But what about the people who, for the cost of commercial insurance and signing up with an app, can send their vehicles out on taxi runs when they’re sleeping or otherwise not needing it?

It’s probably too late already, but the province and individual municipalities need to do a better job of revamping regulations to keep up with the new economic realities.