uber toronto

Pearson Airport is seeing more Ubers than ever and Toronto drivers are raising alarms

A rideshare driver in Toronto is drawing attention to the massive glut of Ubers in the city, which she feels has hit an infeasible level that makes it impossible to earn money in the gig.

Earla Phillips, who has been working for Uber and Lyft for nearly a decade and serves as the vice-president of the Ride Share Drivers Association, was shocked to see more than a whopping 400 Ubers waiting for a chance to pick up travellers arriving at Toronto Pearson International Airport earlier this week.

She shared a driver's view of the app on Tuesday evening, showing 406-410 UberX's in queue to serve 41 landing flights, with a "long wait" of 30 minutes or more to secure a customer.

Phillips shared the screengrab to X, writing that it marked "the highest numbers I have ever seen at YYZ."

"This is getting so ridiculous. The oversaturation of drivers in the Toronto area is... I am left without the right words," she added.

Others responding to the tweet shared the same feelings, with one resident writing that they, too, were there at the time to pick up their daughter, and had "NEVER seen so many cars at the airport."

"I'm there regularly to get her and it was absolute mayhem last night," they said.

One person suggested that the prioritization of customers' ultra convenience has led to "other humans' poverty" — meaning gig drivers, who are considered independent contractors in Toronto.

Many, like Phillips, have argued that they are seeing a continuing decline in earnings in an industry where wages are sometimes below minimum and turnover rate is high, largely because far too many cars are on the road.

The bylaws governing the sector don't help either, and prevent alternative models like Revo Rideshare, where workers can build up their own client base to ensure business, from gaining hold.

"We are oversaturated, but Uber will never admit that," Phillips tells blogTO, pointing out that while New York City has approximately 84,000 drivers on the app, Toronto — with a population of only 35 per cent of NYC's — has just over 66,000 as of the end of February, plus tens of thousands more food couriers.

And, progressively more of these drivers seem to be doing it full-time while demand for the service is still not up to pre-pandemic levels.

"Toronto is the hub of Canada for gig workers. The economy is changed and people are looking for new ways to work," Phillips says."But you can't just flood the roads with tens of thousands of drivers."

She adds that 50 per cent of the drivers she's surveyed through her advocacy work now say they are working for Uber more than 30 hours per week, and with so much competition, drivers can end up waiting four or more hours at hubs like Pearson to pick up a rider, which she calls "unpaid wasted time."

The city's controversial cap on rideshare licenses, which was implemented last year only to be revoked two months later, would have been one solution, she argues.

As Phillips says, "Taxis in the city have always been capped at the number where drivers can actually make a living," which begs the question of why the same shouldn't apply to all drivers offering this type of service.

Interestingly enough, while some drivers appear to feel the cap is in their best interest, Uber took legal action to have it reversed. This move adds to the widely held theory that Uber gaslights drivers by denying issues and funnelling more rides to new workers before tapering them off. Advocates say Uber also "squeezes" money from drivers and riders alike to ensure its own profits.

But, Uber insists that based on its own polls, its drivers are happy with the "flexibility to choose when, where, and how they work, which they can't get from a traditional job." It also says that the majority of its drivers (78 per cent) drive on an "infrequent basis," not full-time, and that 96 per cent are in support of a package of labour reforms proposed by the brand, which has yet to be accepted by provincial governments.

Of the driver cap, a spokesperson for Uber told blogTO that 'when the cap was enacted, over 1,000 drivers emailed city council to ask them to remove it as it impacted their flexibility. Ultimately, the City repealed the cap following the advice of their City solicitor. "

Still, in response to the state of things, drivers are organizing a global day of strike on May 1 — the second such move planned this year.

Lead photo by

Elena Berd/Shutterstock

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