Uber is reinventing the way we travel around the city. Originating in San Francisco in 2010, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp recognized the inefficiencies in the market for taxis, including slower and more expensive ride times, and saw technology as the answer. Together they sought to create a mobile application to solve these inefficiencies and connect each driver to the passenger directly. And thus, Uber was born.
As soon as it hit the marketplace, Uber literally took off. It conquered city after city and in February 2012, Uber expanded to Toronto, its first Canadian city and second city outside the United States, with Paris being the first.
Once the app is downloaded to your smartphone and a user profile is created, the app tracks your location via gps. When ready for a ride, the user requests a driver through the app. Within minutes, a driver in a sleek black car picks you up and drives you to your desired location. The best perk? You leave the cash at home, as Uber will automatically charge the credit card you have on file.
There are currently five members on the Toronto Uber management team: Lucas Samuels and Craig Hunter are community managers; Jeff Weshler and Ben Harris lead driver operations; and Andrew Macdonald acts as general manager. Together they operate and maintain Uber Toronto and Uber Canada. They are dedicated to their product, which requires a large time commitment since their hardest working hours are typically at times when people are going out and travelling the most. For example, the Uber team was hard at work in their offices on New Year’s Eve, making sure everything ran smoothly.
One of the reasons for Uber’s immense popularity in Toronto is that despite being one of the largest cities in North America, Toronto’s public transit system remains unreliable and undesirable. For example, while Paris has 384 subway stations for 2.2 million residents, Toronto has only 64 subway stations for its 2.6 million residents. Furthermore, there is a dearth of taxis in the city. Paris boasts 15,500 taxis, or seven for every 1,000 people. Conversely, Toronto has 5,000 taxis, or 1.9 for every 1,000 people. The numbers show that as our city gets bigger, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get around.
Uber is “Everyone’s Private Driver,” making travelling efficient by connecting cars directly to passengers. As a technology company, Uber tracks where and when their users get picked up and dropped off. As the data accumulates, they can predict demand and learn the hot spots in Toronto, making travel easier and even more efficient.
Using their technology to expose the city’s inefficient public transportation system, Uber helps connect residents of Toronto to places that were previously unreachable. Now, places off the subway line like Liberty Village or Leslieville are no longer restricted to locals. In this way, Uber is driving customers to local businesses helping both businesses increase sales and individuals try new places around the city.
People describe Uber as addictive – once you’ve used it once, you’re hooked. That’s why the team looks to unique marketing strategies to raise awareness and develop their brand. Uber Toronto has partnered with many major local events and has offered unique promotions like enabling users to deliver roses in Uber cars on Valentine’s Day. In addition, on National Ice Cream Day (the third Sunday in July – yes, it’s a thing), Uber has a special promotion where users may use the Uber app to summon an ice cream truck to their location. With their innovative app, Uber is looking to make your phone a remote control to the world.
WORDS: BRIAN SWEIGMAN
PHOTOS: MARK TYM