Hashim Ali spends his nights driving around Ottawa, giving rides to strangers – often, drunk students. Sometimes, he is out until 4 a.m. This is his job. The twist: he loves it.
Ali works for Uber Ottawa, following a trend of taxi drivers making the switch. He says he has never enjoyed working more. “I offer candy, I offer water…” he smiles, relaxing in the driver’s seat as he cruises down Bank Street. “After giving 4,600 rides with Uber, I still have a 4.9 star rating out of five.”
Hashim Ali keeps water and candy on hand for his customers.
Before switching to Uber six months ago, Ali drove cabs for Capital Taxi for ten years. According to a 2015 Metro News article, there are 1,188 taxicabs in Ottawa, shared between about 2,600 licenced drivers.
Though statistics are not available, Ali says that many of his former peers are following in his footsteps.
“A lot of taxi drivers are becoming Uber drivers because they already have that experience,” he says. “It's not that big of a transition: all you have to do is sign up online with Uber.”
“It's not that big of a transition: all you have to do is sign up online with Uber.”
In 2015, Uber reported $1.5 billion in revenue and a total of 160,000 employees. According to their website, they currently have drivers in 542 cities worldwide.
This rise of popularity is partially due to their cheap fares. According to a study by The10and3.com, Uber passengers can expect to save 50% in Toronto and 44% in Ottawa relative to a traditional cab.
Henok Mengistu, who drove cabs for a decade before switching to Uber in September, says that money was a major factor in the decision. “You didn’t always make money, especially now that Uber is a competitor,” he explains. Mengistu says that the first $120 he made every day would go to his company, and he could only keep what he made past that sum.