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Tech

Uber launches taxi service in Toronto

Posted by Tim / August 31, 2012

Uber Taxi TorontoJust a day after we mentioned that Hailo has expanded to Toronto and plans to launch in the next few weeks, Uber has seemingly beat them to the punch and this afternoon will begin offering taxi service in Toronto. Yes, Uber customers will now have the ability to select taxis in addition to the black towncar and SUV options currently available.

This is the second city (following Chicago's lead) where Uber has expanded their offerings to include taxis. Like Hailo, Uber is working directly with taxi drivers (not local cab companies) and providing iPhones, training and other incentives to get them involved in the program.

Uber isn't disclosing the number of cabs in their fleet to-date, but Uber Toronto General Manager Andrew MacDonald assures me Uber "will always have enough drivers on the system to be a reliable and high quality option for customers."

I asked MacDonald if Uber would prohibit drivers from also working with Hailo and he gave me a cryptic response stating that "we think that our drivers will do so well supplementing their income with Uber, that they won't want to use any other product."

Sounds to me like a two-horse, er, smartphone race to sign up cabbies in Toronto. Either way, looks like we the taxi-seeking public will be the big winners. All of a sudden, taking a taxi in Toronto will never be the same.

Discussion

63 Comments

Jeremy / August 31, 2012 at 10:40 am
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Just checked the UBER app and there's no taxi option there yet...
Lucas / August 31, 2012 at 10:56 am
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TAXI will be available later this afternoon/this evening.

We''ll tweet the announcement when it's live. Follow us @uber_tor
Larry / August 31, 2012 at 11:11 am
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Does Uber even have a taxi licence to operate in Toronto? Last I'd heard, they received a cease and desist from the city and are apparently being taken to court for operating an unlicensed brokerage.

Timing on the article seems suspect given this release: http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1028717/city-of-toronto-grants-first-ever-taxi-license-to-app-based-taxi-company
Lucas / August 31, 2012 at 11:16 am
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Hey Larry,

This isn't the case, we are operating legally and have never received a cease and desist from the city.
Larry replying to a comment from Lucas / August 31, 2012 at 11:23 am
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Well that's funny, because this Global Toronto article says you're not licensed by the city (and this was confirmed in a call with a city of Toronto employee):

http://www.globaltoronto.com/app-based+taxi+service+to+hit+toronto+streets/6442706282/story.html
Eric / August 31, 2012 at 11:34 am
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wow... just wow.
Lucas / August 31, 2012 at 11:38 am
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Hey Larry,

All of our drivers are fully licensed by the city. We're always open to productive dialogue with the city, who has expressed openness to working with technology companies like Uber.
Larry replying to a comment from Lucas / August 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm
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That's great, but just because Uber is using licensed cab drivers still doesn't change the fact that Uber is not a licensed cab company. That's the issue here, Lucas - you're running an unlicensed transportation company. If something goes wrong, and god forbid a customer is injured, assaulted or worse while taking a trip in an Uber car, there's no recourse of action for them.
Lucas / August 31, 2012 at 12:59 pm
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Hey Larry,

I just want to clarify that we are not a transportation company. We assist in connecting passengers with licensed taxi drivers. We are a technology company.

We do not own a cars. We do not employ drivers. Think of the difference between Expedia and Air Canada.

Again, the taxi drivers Uber partners with are fully licensed and insured.

Think as if a customer were to hail a taxi on the side of the road. That customer would still be covered by the drivers insurance policy.

We certainly appreciate your interest in our business. Feel free to reach out to our support email if you have more questions.
JIm Bell / August 31, 2012 at 01:17 pm
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Now let's see you're not licensed as a Limousine Service Company, you haven't filed your limousine rates with the city. You don't meet the minimum advance booking requirements, you charge based on distance and time yet licensed limousine companies have to charge on a time baisi. You don't charge the applicable flat rate schedule to Pearson according to the By-law.
You hope the drivers and vehicles are licensed by the City of Toronto and you won't charge surge pricing during peak demand times. The licensed companies are afforded this flexibility and are accountable to a governing Bylaw which is designed to protect the public. Oops, I forgot, your terms and conditions with your passengers absolve Uber from any liability no matter how caused. Now you're going to be a cab company? At least Hailo took the time to understand the regulation in this City and are charging the metered rate to the public.

Jim
Robert Johnson / August 31, 2012 at 01:23 pm
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And Napster was just a "file sharing" site
Eric replying to a comment from Lucas / August 31, 2012 at 01:24 pm
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Hi Lucas,

I think it's great that you guys are active in the blogs and answering customer's concerns.

I wanted to clarify that this service is available with your Android app too? If so you should really advertise that more since Android has a much larger market share than iPhone. There isn't a single image on your website of an Android phone and I only realized you had an app by looking in the small text at the bottom of the page.
Lucas / August 31, 2012 at 01:31 pm
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Hey Eric,

This service is indeed available for the Android app too. It's free to download:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ubercab&;hl=en

Lucas,
Uber Toronto Community Manager
I wrote this / August 31, 2012 at 02:21 pm
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Pretty sure I've taken Uber cabs at least 4 times already this summer. Is it really just launching now? Anyway, it's a pretty sweet ride.
Josh / August 31, 2012 at 02:23 pm
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I just want to say that this is great! I have been using the Uber service frequently since the app became available and I have been continuously impressed by how this company continues to adapt to the wants and needs of their customers.
Greg / August 31, 2012 at 02:45 pm
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First off, Uber is freakin' awesome. Great service with wicked partnerships and promotions. Awesome customer service should you need it as well.

Secondly, if you're someone like Larry above, just don't use it. How about that?

EJ / August 31, 2012 at 02:54 pm
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Its always interesting to me to see how frequently new startups with tremendous social utility are faced with scrutiny on blogs. I've got to believe that any real issues are raised and dealt with by the company and the city. So much of it seems irrelevant when coming from blogposters. As far as I'm concerned, I've used the Uber app many times and have been consistently thrilled with my experiences. I'm looking forward to checking out the new taxi functions!
KB replying to a comment from EJ / August 31, 2012 at 03:04 pm
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I'm with EJ on this one.

If you got a problem then don't use the service and let the rest of us enjoy.
Nice / August 31, 2012 at 03:20 pm
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Unlicensed? Hah, deleting the app now.
Dan replying to a comment from Nice / August 31, 2012 at 04:26 pm
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You're going to believe what some random chump says?
Ray / August 31, 2012 at 04:48 pm
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I'm with Nice and Jim Bell. Sketchy operation. App deleted.
Larry / August 31, 2012 at 05:04 pm
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Lucas says Uber is a licensed company in Toronto. This is not true. Uber Canada, Inc is not a licensed limo or cab company in the City of Toronto. Run their name through here and tell me what you find: http://app.toronto.ca/LicenceStatus/search.do

I will never, ever use Uber. If you're comfortable compromising your safety and security, by all means use their service. But just so you're aware, if your Uber driver gets into an accident and you're injured or (god forbid) killed, you or your family have no recourse with the city or Uber, as Jim said above (see the Indemnification section of their terms at https://www.uber.com/legal/terms). And I can assure that if a complaint is lodged with the city, they will investigate immediately. As Lucas mentioned earlier, their drivers are licensed. However, this holds no weight and doesn't mean anything to the city if their company is not operating as a licensed limo or cab company.

Any cab or limo company that tries to dispatch or operate a car service without a licence is in violation of Chapter 545 of the City of Toronto's Municipal Code: http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/municode/1184_545.pdf. This code is in place to protect you, the consumer.

Passing yourself off as a licensed car service (limo or otherwise) is not only a violation of the Municipal Code, it's also a crime and will no doubt be investigated by Toronto Police Service.
JM / August 31, 2012 at 05:05 pm
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I see the Taxi lobby groups have hired some guys to troll this comment section! Uber is an awesome app - anyone that has used it will appreciate that. And if you haven't yet used it, you are missing out. Excited to try the Taxi option as well. Good to see an app company that is actually out to help the consumer
Tank Blazer / August 31, 2012 at 05:19 pm
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I've only had good experiences using Uber. The service is fast, the cars are clean and the drivers are friendly. I've recommended it to many colleages and friends, all of whom use it multiple times a week!
Agence / August 31, 2012 at 06:05 pm
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The taxi companies would be better inspired to improve the quality of their services than to hire blog trolls to discredit a new company that is finally innovating in this very stale marketplace.
Matts / August 31, 2012 at 06:27 pm
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See you here in a year, y'all - we'll know by then who was right and who was wrong.
SH / August 31, 2012 at 06:58 pm
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Larry, why is it so hard for you to understand that uber is not a cab company? Its a technology company.
Somehow i doubt you even have a smart phone, so why do you care so much.
Kyle / August 31, 2012 at 07:25 pm
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Taxi users: I'm sure Jim Bell of Diamond Taxi (416-366-6868). Everyone knows that Toronto's taxi companies provide excellent service, in clean cars, at a reasonable rate, while providing drivers with a fare wage - oh wait - none of those things are true... where do I download that app again. I urge everyone to call Diamond Taxi when then need a cab - just don't worry about being there when the Diamond Taxi cab arrives.
Matts replying to a comment from Kyle / August 31, 2012 at 10:08 pm
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Please Kyle, no more drunk posting.
Alex / September 1, 2012 at 12:02 am
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this is great! Now the rates are a bit cheaper and the service is still that much better than an ordinary cab. and if you want a classier car, go right ahead and get a black car no problem.
Tracie / September 1, 2012 at 08:38 am
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"Fully licensed and insured" is quite broad. I see "taxis" and "limos" every day that try to say the same, only the fine print is this: THEY HAVE NO BUSINESS LICENSE from the city they're operating in. Call it the following: medallion, permit, business license. How many of the vehicles "hired" to work with Uber have any of these? I can buy a van, slap a meter and a top light on it be "licensed and insured" (a drivers license for my state and some insurance for my vehicle and a simple registration)and STILL be illegally operating because the city I operate in DOESN'T KNOW I EXIST!! It happens everywhere, every day...with or without Uber. Why are they being allowed to escalate the problem? LEGAL vehicles (in most places) have set rates they can charge. LEGAL vehicles can't multiply their rates by 1.5-7% when they deem it's too busy. I, myself, would be irate if I was charged a higher rate because the company providing my transportation couldn't have enough vehicles on the road to cover business. Why would this be the customer's problem? But, people aren't very smart anymore.
Let me ask this: if I lived in Toronto, Boston, Chicago (pick a city) and wanted to open a convenience store could I just buy a building, some shelves, a cash register and some stock then slap an "open" sign on my door without first obtaining a business license? Same concept with a transportation business.
Keep letting the illegals pick up your wives, your drunk children or your grandma going to the store. Sometime, somewhere, something will happen to one of them and the Uber driver that no one can find was driving the car when it hit that light pole will go on his/her merry way (if they're not all dead first).
Fred / September 1, 2012 at 01:00 pm
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Larry, you seem to have some sort of agenda based on your posting style. Perhaps you should disclose what your interest is in this situation and what, if any, your affiliation with an established transportation company is.
Bob / September 1, 2012 at 03:43 pm
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Here's the kicker: Uber includes an automatic 20% gratuity to the driver! I thought gratuities were based on the quality of service provided.
Lucas replying to a comment from Bob / September 1, 2012 at 06:47 pm
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Hey Bob,

There's two reason we charge the automatic 20% gratuity.

1) So the rider doesn't have to fumble with change or breaking a bill to tip the driver, which is also why we charge everything directly to your credit card. Never having to take out your wallet means a seamless and convenient experience. It also means you'll never forget your wallet in the TAXI.

2) So the driver is guaranteed tip. This way the rider can never run out of the TAXI and skip out on tipping the driver!

20% is pretty standard tip. $2 on a $10 TAXI ride.
James / September 1, 2012 at 09:03 pm
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A TIP should always be based on service!
I do see the other side of this, the driver gets an Uber call he at leasts know he will get a tip...gives him the incentive to take care of the client & provide the good service he is being paid for.
Ray / September 2, 2012 at 09:52 pm
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lively discussion. best post goes to Tracie IMO.
confused / September 3, 2012 at 12:19 pm
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so confused. i thought uber was all about avoiding 'smelly taxi drivers' and saying everyone should take a black car????...now they are in the taxi game? weird.
Lucas replying to a comment from confused / September 3, 2012 at 12:44 pm
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That's a great question. TAXI is all about giving Toronto options. We know that sometimes people don't want to roll in an Uber limo. Sometimes it can feel too snazzy depending on the circumstances.

TAXI gives you the convenience of Uber (ordering and payment) and a quality level yet to be experienced with traditional taxi companies, at a lower price point than our Black car or SUV options.

Lucas,
Uber Toronto Community Manager
Chino / September 3, 2012 at 05:42 pm
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Good! I love my city but I cant stand Toronto's cab companies and the service they provide.

Cab drivers looking for fares are either pylons on four wheels, accidents waiting to happen, or asses if you dont live far enough. And when you're in a cab the driver can be rude, lost, unhygenic, or on his bluetooth and unattentive.

Cab companies are bureaucratic machines operating another form of sweatshop. I used to work at a hotel as a valet driver so I learned about all the red tape from cab drivers and limo drivers. If you can tell from the "Larry the cab company guy"'s tone of voice, it sounds condescending. I wonder how many friends he has in City Hall.

Anyway...it's good to see some new competition in Toronto's cab game. Especially when it's based on ingenuity and technology woven together by smart people trying to make people's lives easier and better. It's only a matter of time before every 25-40 year old in Toronto, especially in the core, calls a cab/limo using Uber. It's about time.
hair vitamins / September 3, 2012 at 08:20 pm
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I always spent my half an hour to read this webpage's content every day along with a cup of coffee.
Dave / September 3, 2012 at 10:14 pm
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......aaaaand Chino work for uber.
Robert Johnson / September 4, 2012 at 01:54 pm
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Legal cab companies are generally heavily regulated especially so in large cities. Legal Cab companies find themselves bending over backwards to comply with the regulations and more specifically the regulatory officials. It drives us crazy watching our drivers get suspended for something minor like not completely filling out a manifest, or failing to notify the Inspector of the outcome of a traffic ticket. It drives us crazy to see vehicles put out of service because of paint chips to the front bumper or some other minor triviality that does not affect passenger safety or comfort. It drives us so crazy to know that we get the white glove treatment (and punishment that go along with it) while we watch illegal cab companies pop up and operate with impunity and none of the regulatory oversight we subject ourselves to in order to meet the demands of the general public. Sure, it'd be nice to cut all the corners and charge whatever we like and get whatever insurance we feel comfortable with and just shrug our shoulders and say "meh, good is good enough" but we can't. We aren't the "all powerful taxi lobby" we are concerned legal legitimate operators watching our business get threatened by a large "software company" who thumbs their nose at local regulation with a "try and stop us" attitude.
confused / September 4, 2012 at 02:32 pm
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thanks for the reply lucas but I am still confused as you didnt really answer my question. i follow the tech scene and have watched you and your customers tweet and retweet countless comments about stinky cab drivers and stinky cabs in toronto...which i always felt was a bit of a mean-spirited differentiation tactic to push people to use a fancy black car or suv. this is where the confusion lies...one day it is all about black cars and vip service and avoiding the taxis altogether...then the next day you are trying to be the taxi industry saviour...it just doesn't add up with me. it is very clear that you are talking out of both sides of your mouth which a service industry business really should avoid. personally i have grown tired of uber. especially after seeing the type of passenger culture that is created...very non-canadian, snobby and 'look at me'...yawn.
muchacho / September 4, 2012 at 10:17 pm
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As someone who found using taxis every day was less expensive than car ownership in the city, I have spent more time in cabs and relying on them than most people.

Some observations about cabs in Toronto after taking a few thousand rides in them:

1. They have no service culture. This is partially because the non-ambassador drivers rent the cars daily for a 12h shift. Drivers have no stake in being good or safe, only fast, because they are screwed at every corner. For example that price increase a few years ago to compensate for gas was promptly confiscated by insurance companies.

2. A huge number of taxi medallions are held by a few politically connected families who lease them back to cab companies. There is at least one former mega-mayor whose family gets some serious rent from their medallion holdings. There is a culture of cynical corruption throughout the business. Drivers come from a lot of corrupt countries and are surprised at how familiar their lives are here.

3. You can never find one when you need one. Drivers gripe about how the ambassador licenses cause there to be too many cabs, but until I can flag a cab in the morning outside the downtown core in less than 15 mins, there are too few.

4. The drivers are dangerous. They have no idea how even a grid like toronto is laid out and they drive like they're in countries where life is cheap. Since they just rent the things for the day, they have no skills or training. They don't own their business, so why should they care? Foreign doctors make for poor drivers anyway.

5. The city runs the licensing commission like the mafia. Ask anyone who deals with them. It's a fief. We have to find a way to break their stranglehold on the business. It's more than just regulated, it's a racket. That medallions go for hundreds of thousands of dollars and are the retirement assets of the drivers suggests something is fundamentally broken in the system.

6. Cops prey on them. It would be nice if police nailed them for the u-turn of death or letting passengers off into bike lanes, but it's the parking and stopping infractions that just harass them and make them cynical about the laws here.

7. flat pricing is anti-competitive, way too high, and hurts drivers. more people would take cabs if they could afford them, and if drivers want more fares, they are going to have to charge less to get more business.

We need a company like Uber to actually serve people who take taxis in a way that is efficient, reliable, and worth paying for. If the taxi business can't rise to provide better service when there are people ready to pay for it, then they should shut down and let real business people run it (entrepreneurs, you might have heard of them, french word) instead of city cronies.

So, Dear Taxi Companies: stop paying flacks to post on blogs and put the dollars into launching a competitive service. Technology means transparency, and transparency means evolve or go extinct.
SJM / September 5, 2012 at 08:51 am
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Uber offers a great service and I'm excited to try out the new taxi option. It's clear from this conversation that the city's taxi lobby is strong and is pushing hard to prevent this start-up from getting off the ground. Taxi users would be well served supporting Uber and putting a little pressure on the incumbents to provide better service and treat drivers fair. I discredit the safety argument from Larry as I can't remember the last time I felt safe in a city cab!
goat / September 5, 2012 at 11:08 am
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At the end of the day, I'm curious to see how the rates for an Uber taxi compare to Beck Taxi or any of the others in the city.
I also don't know how I feel about the 20% tip. I've had variance in cab fares up to $7 due to traffic / congestion in the city. Why should the driver that got caught in traffic earn an extra $1.40? As was mentioned above - gratuities should be based on service.
BB / September 5, 2012 at 12:23 pm
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Some of these posts are ridiculous...hey Larry, how much are they paying you to come on here to try to discredit Uber? I've had nothing but great experiences using the app. Very easy and convenient. Looking forward to trying out the new taxi option.
Ashley replying to a comment from Lucas / September 5, 2012 at 02:33 pm
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So when the service is poor enough that it doesn't warrant a tip, why should they automatically get a gratuity?
Skeletor / September 6, 2012 at 01:52 pm
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Uber is amazing - try it and you will be converted! If you want $10 off your first ride, check out uber.com/invite/uberfreerideTO
mike replying to a comment from Skeletor / September 6, 2012 at 01:53 pm
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totally agree! Thanks for the code!
Michael nightingale / September 6, 2012 at 05:20 pm
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Love the service. Couldn't be happier that I have the option to choose my car. Different options for different occasions is a wonderful thing to have. Great work through and through
jumping exercises / September 6, 2012 at 11:15 pm
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Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this, like you
wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with some pics
to drive the message home a little bit, but instead of that, this is fantastic
blog. An excellent read. I will definitely be back.
ubernot / September 10, 2012 at 01:58 pm
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what's this I hear about the driver who signs up with Uber then goes out and uses his own personal vehicle to pick up the Uber call with the free uber phone.. Scary, no commercial insurance, unregistered vehicle and no meter. But why not Uber gets their cash, the driver gets his after the discount and the passenger has signed away his right to sue Uber if something happens. Good gig.
Vince Carter / September 12, 2012 at 12:09 pm
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Just try before you hate! Free rides are pretty dope!

If you're coming to Mod Club tonight for TIFF Music House use the promo codes TORFMH2012 for $20 off and also ubertdot for another $10.

Sounds pretty good to me!
Dion Phaneuf / September 19, 2012 at 01:15 pm
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Make sure if you sign up, you get the TO discount! uber.com/invite/uberfreerideTO
SN / September 26, 2012 at 10:23 pm
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These new companies would be nice revolution in taxi industry. I hope they will get there space by doing hard work.
Good luck.
SK / October 3, 2012 at 05:01 am
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My companies taxi app wishes to be part of the solution not create more problems. We will work with Toronto's Municple licensing to get our App pre-approved BEFORE we build it. We are asking Torontonians what features in an app you want and dont want. You can even help us name the new app. If you want to help create Toronto's best taxi App. Copy and paste the link below and fill out the survey. All particpants are entered in a draw to win an IPHONE 5. Help us make Toronto's best Taxi App a reality. http://fs25.formsite.com/Sakarlscabtricitycom/form1/index.html
toronto taxi / October 13, 2012 at 10:37 am
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Good to have competition in Toronto taxi industry we might be able to get better quality service
taxi service mn / November 16, 2012 at 11:34 am
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Edina taxi is cab company specializing in rides to the MSP International Airport. It offers taxi service in Edina, MN.
ihsan / November 23, 2012 at 05:35 am
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@muchacho buddy dont you think you are trying to underestimate the drivers more than clearing your shitty point they work so much harder than you guys so try to respect buddy
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Uber / March 11, 2013 at 05:28 pm
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This code gives whoever signs up with it a 100% free Black Car ride up to $40. It is for new users only!

FREE $40 Black car ride:

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Jack / August 4, 2013 at 06:35 pm
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I've used it works great it's just a different way to get a cab. I love it. Critics are probably trolls working for cab companies. This is the way of the future

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