A Social Surcharge – the Downsides of Ridesharing

When I would tell friends in America that Vancouver does not have ridesharing, they would express disbelief. Ridesharing apps have transformed the way most North Americans commute. After a long day at work or a night out, Uber and Lyft have offered a convenient and cheap ride home for nearly a decade. Everywhere, that is, except Vancouver, where ridesharing firms only began operations in January 2020.

I moved to New York just days before the duopoly’s overdue introduction to Vancouver. Ridesharing from JFK to Manhattan was easy and reasonable. But, this means of transportation comes with hidden social costs. Cities that have had ridesharing services for much of the 2010s now grapple with the environmental issues, reductions in disability access, and serious safety concerns that accompany them. Vancouver should thus seize its late-mover advantage, learn from its predecessors, and implement tighter regulations on these firms minimizing these downsides.

This industry can have devastating environmental impacts. In New York daily ridesharing trips increased from 60,000 to 600,000 over three years, while transit ridership showed an almost perfectly proportional decline. This trend can be observed across multiple US markets, where on average bus ridership would drop by 12% in eight years following ridesharing’s entry. Meanwhile, Vancouver, without Uber and Lyft, has experienced some of the fastest growing transit ridership rates. Additionally, a report produced by ridesharing firms, acknowledged that they contributed significantly to traffic congestion, and that only about 60% of kilometers travelled by ridesharing vehicles were with passengers in the backseat.

That means a lot of added empty cars on our roads causing significant environmental impact. Vancouver has taken steps to mitigate this, including a $0.30 pick up and drop off fee, but this does not go far enough. Vancouver’s roads are already some of the most congested, and thus the city should consider charging ridesharing vehicles for distances travelled – disincentivizing cars from driving without customers. Taxes collected from the companies should be earmarked solely for transit improvements.

Ridesharing | Belvedere Tiburon Library


Ridesharing does not just harm the environment, it poses challenges for disability access as well. The software can be challenging to use for the blind, and the vast majority of ridesharing vehicles are not equipped with wheelchair ramps. Legally, unlike taxi companies, rideshare firms are not required to maintain accessible vehicles because they do noy own the vehicles their drivers operate. To aggravate the situation, accessible taxis are now being taken off the road due to the intense competition posed by ridesharing.

Taxi companies in Vancouver, which are already threatening to do the same, are required to have 19% of their fleets be wheelchair accessible, while conversely rideshares face no such requirements. To improve access for persons with disabilities, Vancouver should provide tax breaks for accessible taxis and ramp-equipped ridesharing vehicles. Research should be undertaken on how accessible vehicle minimums could be legally imposed on Uber and Lyft.

Finally, a number of safety issues plague ridesharing companies. 2019 saw 3,000 sexual assaults reported in Uber vehicles. Worryingly, a recent article outlined how employees responsible for investigating these kinds of incidents are coached to prioritize company interests before those of the affected passenger.

Vancouver has imposed requirements on these companies to complete periodic mandatory background checks, which pales in comparison to the requirements for taxi drivers. While it may be difficult to oblige rideshare drivers to install vehicle security cameras, mandatory semiannual criminal record checks, increased police training, and pressure to build safety features into rideshare applications are all certainly possible.

But, regulating ridesharing is no simple task. There will certainly be pushback from Uber and Lyft, and from consumers themselves who stand to benefit from the affordable means of transportation. As users of rideshare though, we must demand that our governments take bold and innovative steps to check these firms, in ways that do not significantly increase the monetary cost of rides. It is important that we look past the initial benefits of a cheap ride, and think about the long term social costs of these services, which we will all eventually bear if governments don’t act fast.

Despite issues stemming from environmental degradation, a reduction in accessibility, and passenger safety, I continue to use ridesharing here in New York. However, on each of these trips I pay a surcharge of guilt. I thus implore Vancouver’s municipal government to impose tighter regulations on Lift and Uber. Consumers have patiently waited for the government to approve ridesharing, the least we can expect in return is that our legislators have used that time wisely.



Do You Say “Thank You” When Disembarking From Public Transit?

About 34% of all riders in Metro Vancouver do.

Translink Bus

In the August of 2011, Translink, the transit authority in Vancouver, British Columbia conducted a poll on its blog asking readers “Do you say ‘Thanks’ to bus drivers?” Only 16 of the survey’s 593 respondents, or 3%, responded that they never say “thanks” (“Friday Fun Poll“). Although the online nature of this poll creates numerous biases including self-selection and undercoverage, it served as my motivation to explore this subject in greater detail.

Research Question

Does gender play a role in the likelihood an individual will say “thank you” or “thanks” to the public transit operator when he or she disembarks from a non-articulated bus in the Metro Vancouver area?


For this study, the primary data was generated using an indirect unobtrusive measure, meaning that research subjects were not aware that the data was being collected. To ascertain the data, I boarded the #25 bus on Monday, November 10th at 1:38pm, at the first eastbound stop, the UBC bus loop, and sat near the back door, from where a majority of passengers exit. From here, I proceeded to record the gender of each passenger (male or female), the door each individual used to exit the bus (front or back), the stop the passenger disembarked at, and of course whether or not each passenger expressed gratitude when exiting the bus. All of these measures were binary with the exception of the stop name. This data collection was continued until the bus reached its last stop in Metro Vancouver, Kincaid Street at Boundary Road. Here, I switched to a westbound #25 bus departing at 2:37pm and repeated the data collection process for all passengers until UBC.

The #25 bus was selected for two reasons. It is one of only the two buses (the other being the #49) to traverse the entire East to West length of the Metro Vancouver area. Additionally, it is the only one of the two aforementioned buses that is not articulated. On articulated buses, individuals may be less likely to say thank you to the driver because of the distance from the back doors to the front of the bus. The greater number of available exits would also increase measurement error, as it would be hard for the researcher to accurately hear, see, and count passengers as they exit the longer buses.


After logging the collected data into Microsoft Excel and cleaning up the entries to ensure consistency and accuracy, it was transferred to SmStata 13.1 for analysis. The results of the survey are summarized in the following table with column percentages:

  Male Female Total
Did not express gratitude 40 (65.6%) 56 (66.7%) 96 (66.2%)
Express gratitude 21 (34.4%) 28 (33.3%) 49 (33.8%)
Total 61 84 145 (100%)

A few points of note on this table are that 33.8% of all individuals surveyed expressed gratitude when disembarking from the bus. Additionally, even before the execution of any statistical analysis, it is evident that the rate of expressing gratitude is fairly similar between males and females, at 34.4% and 33.3% respectively.

Subsequently, a chi-squared test of independence was performed on the two variables. In this experiment, the null hypothesis is that the propensity of an individual to express gratitude when disembarking from public transit is independent of the individual’s gender. The test yielded a p-value of 0.891, much higher than the predetermined significance level of α = 0.05. Consequently, there is no reasonable evidence to support the rejection of the null hypothesis.

This study therefore concludes that the likelihood of an individual saying “thanks” or “thank you” as he or she disembarks from public transit in the Metro Vancouver area is independent of said person’s gender.


One major issue with this study is the external validity, or the potential inability for the results to be generalized to larger populations, (such as all bus riders, or even all riders Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 3.24.39 PMon the #25 bus). This is because of the non-random sampling method utilized, and the limited sample size caused by the time and budget constraints. It is possible that bus riders at the times or on the routes selected are not representative of the average bus rider in Vancouver. For example, a bus rider in rush hour may have a different propensity to expressing gratitude when disembarking than those in the evening due to confounding variables.

Finally, there is also the chance for measurement error. As I was the only one observing individuals on the bus, it is possible that I may have systematically misheard passengers, miscounted passengers disembarking at the busier stops, or even misjudged individuals’ genders.


Curtin, Michael. “A Question of Manners: Status and gender in Etiquette and Courtesy.” The Journal of Modern History (1985): 396-423.

Deandremouse. “Re: Animated Bus Thread.” Weblog comment. Canadian Public Transit Discussion Board. N.p., 24 Feb. 2011. Web.

“Friday Fun Poll: Do You Say “Thanks” to Bus Drivers?” The Buzzer Blog. Translink, 19 Aug. 2011. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

Harris, Mary B. “When Courtesy Fails: Gender Roles and Polite Behaviors.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology 22.18 (1992): 1399-1416.

Mills, Sara. “Class, gender and politeness.” Multilingua 23.1-2 (2004): 171-190.

Spark: The Buzzer Blog’s Friday Fun Poll: Do you say “Thanks” to bus drivers?


The Way of the Future

Business that’s good for you.

Energy Aware’s Janice Cheam represents a new breed of entrepreneurs. Like all CEOs, she is hungry for success and wildly ambitious, but she is also socially aware. Janice, like many of today’s business graduates is not only interested in money, but also in stirring positive change.

Her firm produces meters that help families measure their monthly power usage and track trends. Energy Aware operates in North America, Europe and even extensively in Australia.

Janice Cheam http://www.newventuresbc.com/2011/08/2006-competitor-energy-aware-on-cover-of-bc-business-magazine/

This is a stark contrast to the common perception of a CEO. As mentioned in my post, “Funny Business”, the world often views businessmen and women in a very negative light; Janice is blowing away those stereotypes.

It was absolutely terrific to see someone so passionate about her work, and about making a difference in the world. Social (or in this case environmental) businesses have featured heavily in my past few Commerce classes, leading me to believe that Energy Aware is not an anomaly but rather part of a growing trend. These businesses are bound to help build a better world by breaking the once established norms and going places unimagined in the last century.

Finally, it’s great to see Energy Aware’s technology a knockout with consumers; interest on both sides of the market will drive environmental innovation and quicken the pace of reform. I look forward to hearing about Janice and her firm’s future success!

Spark: Janice Cheam’s presentation on Energy Aware, Jeff and Paul’s lectures on social enterprise, and Professor David Silver‘s lecture on business ethics.

Seeing Purple

IndiGo’s take off, and the business plan behind it.

IndiGo Airlines http://www.topnews.in/companies/indigo-airlines

The Indian airline industry is cutthroat. The top five airlines, Indian, Kingfisher, Jet Airways, IndiGo, and SpiceJet are in a constant fight for market share. The fierce battle escalated last year when India’s once top airline, Kingfisher fell from first place to last in a matter of months thanks to financial woes. Kingfisher’s drop created a vacuum, and allowed for an unassuming rival to take its place. IndiGo, the newest of the five swept into the number one position, and its executives say they owe their new found success to their rigid business plan.

IndiGo’s founder Rahul Bhatia beat out industry veterans http://businesstoday.intoday.in/story/indigo-in-most-promising-companies/1/18666.html

IndiGo has stuck faithfully by a low cost model, something its competitors moved away from years ago. The airline offers the bare minimum in terms of services, but also the lowest rates. This appeals to the Indian markets as most travelers aren’t very well to do, and distances are fairly short. Clients don’t seem to care too much about the journey, but merely getting there safely.

The new leader offers just that. It boasts a record for the most on-time flights, and arguably the best safety rating in the country. IndiGo was also quick to move into routes abandoned by Kingfisher, as it added a staggering one plane per six weeks to its fleet.

First mover advantage clearly plays no role in the Indian airline market. Customers will go for whatever option is cheapest and ensures a hassle-free journey, and IndiGo has unmistakably gotten that down to a science.

Spark: Indigo Sticks to the Basics

This Time for Africa

Ready for the boom?


Most people tend to write off the entirety of Africa when it comes to business. Its reputation of bad governance, poor standards and constant warfare make it an unappealing investment for firms and individuals. But as of late, the continent has quietly pushed its way to the top of growth charts, with some of its countries even outpacing China and India.

This growth has the potential to be extremely beneficial to historically impoverished nations such as Ethiopia and Rwanda. Unfortunately, because the systems to handle the new capital are weak and unorganized, these new found funds will not be used to great effect.

Ideally, the boosted GDPs would help develop much-needed infrastructure and social programs. This would help create a more business friendly environment on the continent, ensuring future growth and maybe even winning over skeptical investors. Instead, much of the money will likely be wasted in bureaucracy and corruption as discussed in The Economist’s blog “Baobab. This was demonstrated using Nigeria’s oil economy, where despite large growth, citizens have seen little (if any) in the way of improvement to their quality of life.

The whole world wants Africa and its people to succeed, it’s time its leaders did too.

Spark: Baobab (external blog) and The Lion Kings?

A Great Leap Forward?

Xi’s in control. 

Xi Jinping stands with China’s next leaders http://www.bbc.com/

Next March, when Xi Jinping is appointed China’s President, he will face a very different set of issues than his predecessor, Hu Jintao. Chinese economic growth rates have slowed for seven quarters, and faltering western economies mean a weaker demand for China’s exports. These problems were addressed in Andrea Duarte’s blog post “China: Should it Keep Growing?

Deng Xiaoping, China’s original champion of reform

Mr. Jinping will also have to tackle calls for freedom from his people and the global community.

I firmly believe that China’s economic and social issues are tightly connected. To set the nation back on track, leaders must further open markets, and allow greater freedom of speech. An increased flow of ideas will help China innovate and rely less upon its manufacturing sector. This was done with radically beneficial effects in the 70s and 80s with Deng Xiaoping as president.

I disagree with Andrea’s concerns for China’s large population. This factor is more a positive than a negative, as it provides a large group of buyers for the nation’s goods, and an enormous workforce.

If the new leaders can let go of stubborn and outdated regulation, China has the potential to overcome challenges and retake its place as an undisputed economic powerhouse.

Spark: Andrea Duarte’s post and The Man Who Must Change China

Thank you Kyle for your thoughtful response!

Polar Express

The troubles of transporting food to Canada’s North.

The transportation and logistics of fresh produce is always a tricky business. This difficulty is amplified in many developing nations, where governments and organizations struggle to distribute reasonably priced, quality crops to consumers without the proper infrastructure for their delivery. Surprisingly, similar problems exist right here, in Canada.

A typical sight at a grocery store in Nunavut ($11.35) http://www.facebookstories.com/stories/1579/iqaluit-nunavut-a-northern-diet

With no railway or highways serving much of the territories, grocery chains are forced to rely on planes to deliver goods, daily. On account of this, prices are driven to ridiculous ranges, a head of cabbage for $28 or a four-litre jug of milk for $8.

These figures mean that residents of Canada’s North are finding it increasingly difficult to put food on their tables. 56% of Inuit families face a degree of food insecurity.

Most grocery has to be flown in to Nunavut daily. http://www.nunatsiaqonline.ca/stories/article/98789_first_air_expands_atr_service_into_kivalliq/

Although the government already provides food subsidies for the people of these territories through Nutrition North Canada, this is clearly not enough to ensure affordable prices. To make transportation faster and cheaper, it is imperative the government invest in better infrastructure in the area, increase subsidies, and encourage greater competition. Through these methods, the government can secure the sustainability of Northern life, thus preserving both Inuit culture and Canada’s threatened sovereignty in the region.

Spark: Professor Mahesh Nagarajan‘s lecture on Transportation and Logistics, and Who, What, Why: Why does a cabbage cost $28 in Canada?

Thank you Vinotha for your thoughtful response!

France’s Pigeons

Business protests take to the web.

During last year’s Arab Spring, ordinary citizens ousted dictators with the help of social media. The powerful effects of social networking sites are now being felt in the business world, as young french entrepreneurs took to Facebook in protest of a new tax increase on the rich.

The logo of “Les Pigeons” https://www.facebook.com/lespigeonsentrepreneurs

Led by an I.T. investor, the group calls themselves Les Pigeons. It demanded via the web that the French government reconsider a tax hike on start-up capital. The group argues that this tax will deter entrepreneurship. With about 70,000 likes, it pushed the government to quickly U-turn, compromise on this policy and reassess others.

Street protests are common in France, but they tend to have little effect. I found it surprising that this method was so successful; it will definitely trigger a shift in the way businesses protest regulation not only in France but also around the globe.

If Hollande’s party continues to bow down to small protests, they may face future difficulty http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2012/may/08/francois-hollande-startups

Although I think it was bad policy to begin with, the government made a mistake by backing down. The socialist party was elected on a strong mandate to increase taxes on the rich. Backtracking over 70,000 Facebook likes encourages civil dissidence, and appears weak and surrendering; a stereotype France is already struggling to quell.

Spark: Rolling Back a Tax Increase via Facebook


Thank you Joshua and Jeff for your thoughtful responses!

Fight of the Century

The economy versus the earth. 

While the environmental movement is sweeping the globe, Canada seems to be heading in the opposite direction. Jessica Barry’s post “Canadian Government Speeds Up the Industrial Process brought to my attention the growing favorability of business over the environment in Canada.

Sadly, I can’t say the nature of Jessica’s blog was very surprising. The suspension of environmental reviews for 3,000 projects comes after a long line of similar decisions.

The Albertan oil sands have become the face of the fight between business and the environment http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/03/canadian-oil-sands/kunzig-text

I find the misnomer that long-term economic growth will come at the expense of the environment pretty baffling. Reliance on natural resources to fuel an economy will lead to declines in other sectors such as manufacturing and services; industries that will support the economy long after resources run dry. Milking the environment will also lead to sharp drops in Canada’s tourism industry which accounts for about the same percentage of our GDP as agriculture, fishing, and forestry combined.

A Canadian postage stamp  depicting a wind farm. http://www.wind-works.org/photos/stp_Canada2005.html

Finally, investing in the development of environmentally friendly technology and energy will decrease our dependency on fluctuating, unstable resource prices in the long run.

Canada is running out of excuses to put commerce before the environment, and fast running out of time to pull away from the troubles that this will inevitably cause.

Spark: Jessica Barry’s Post and Harper government cancels 3,000 environmental reviews on pipelines and other projects


Funny Business

“SINCE we have not more power of knowing the future than any other men, we have made many mistakes (who has not during the past five years?), but our mistakes have been errors of judgment and not of principle.” So reflected J.P. Morgan junior in 1933, in the middle of a financial crisis. Today’s bankers can draw no such comfort from their behaviour. –The Economist Magazine, 2012

HSBC Executives take an oath before testifying in a U.S. Senate hearing

It was a cruel summer for business ethics. HSBC was found banking drug lords and terrorists, and traders in London casually rigged interbank borrowing rates, to name just a few cringe-worthy missteps in the past months.

This comes at the tail end of a financial crisis that was wrought with examples of corruption, unethical management practices and insider trading. These practices came at the expense of jobs, and at times honest people.

When there’s large sums of money involved, some find it harder to differentiate between right and wrong. Unfortunately, this has badly hurt society’s perception of the profession and even those studying it.

The Occupy movement demonstrated the discontent with Commerce

I think this is why David Silver’s insight into business ethics struck a real chord with me. How business is done needs to be rethought to ensure ethics are considered in decision-making, but where should this pressure come from?

Although people must make principled decisions without pressure, it’s unrealistic to rely solely on this. Governments should limit possibilities for wrongdoing, executives need to implement checks to cut temptation, and b-schools must teach business applications of common values.

Even with changes, making commerce fair and rebuilding its battered image will take lots of good old-fashioned personal integrity.

Spark: The Rotten Heart of Finance and Professor David Silver‘s lecture on business ethics.

Thank you Emily for your thoughtful response!