President of the Grand Bahama Taxi Union (GBTU) Harold Curry, refuted claims made recently by former president James Kemp, that transportation network companies such as Uber services would be allowed to operate on the island.
Curry noted that there is no truth to Uber services being implemented here; however, the union is embracing technology and as such, decided to upgrade its dispatch system, utilizing an application called the ‘Here Mobility’ Drive application.
He added that while to some it may appear to be an Uber type service, as persons can hire transportation via their smart phone or tablets, all drivers associated with the app and its services must be holders of a current public service license.
Curry shared with this daily on Wednesday, August 14, “Regarding Mr. Kemp’s accusations about Uber, I think he was misled because the system that we are introducing, the ‘Here Mobility’ Drive application, is nothing to with Uber at all. He should have come to the office and learned the facts before spreading propaganda. I notice that he said that he spoke to me about it; he never spoke to me about it. If he had spoken to me, I would have told him that was not the case.”
Curry went on to explain the ‘Here Mobility’ application and what it entails for the transportation industry here on the island.
“‘Here Mobility’ is simply upgrading our system. We used to have a dispatch system here many years ago, where we radioed cabs; using radios like Freeport Taxi used. There are not many cabs out there for the locals to use, frequently when Freeport Taxi and GB Taxi were readily available; our system has been closed down for many years now.”
Curry maintained that subsequently a meeting was held with executives at the Grand Bahama Port Authority, where the ‘Here Mobility’ application was discussed. “We realized that we could use Global Positioning System (GPS) throughout the entire island, because there are some streets where signs are not erected.
“Instead of using the radio system, ‘Here Mobility’ allows us to download the application to all of my driver’s phones. A dispatch system is set up within the union, where everything runs through the union,” he explained.
Curry maintained that in the agreement, in order to utilize such an application on the island, certain stipulations were agreed upon, where peer to peer transportation networks such as Uber would not be allowed to conduct business.
“In this agreement we made sure that there would not be anything such as Uber.”
Sharing a copy of the communication with the Grand Bahama Port Authority and the agreement made he continued, “In our letter we stated that the Grand Bahama Taxi Union will have exclusive rights, that all vehicles participating in this application must be either a taxi, a livery car or limousine. It also states that no private vehicles can be used.
“All of the claims by Kemp were nonsense and he was misleading the public. My office is open to all; if he had come to me he could have gotten a clear understanding about it,” claimed Curry.
In addition to the mentioned stipulations, the agreement between the GB Taxi Union regarding the ‘Here Mobility’ app also stated that all vehicles used must be the required standard, well kept, in good working condition and air conditioned.
“Also, all drivers must be a holder of a public driver’s license which means that they have to be regulated. He (Kemp) is suggesting that anyone can utilize this app, that is not the case.
“All of this is coming under the Grand Bahama Taxi Union. All we are doing is upgrading. The Grand Bahama Taxi Union was operating in a box for so long and every president that came here, hit from wall-to-wall; they were hitting from wall-to-wall and could not get out of that box. Now, they have someone who is thinking out of the box and they are scared to take chances.
“If we do not go with the times we will be left behind, because if the GB Taxi Union does not take this offer, then the Ubers might come in and try to privatize. In this particular agreement, no private vehicles will be involved. There is no Uber coming to take over, this is simply an upgrade to the system at the union. Because the service requests can be booked through the phone they call it Uber, because they are not accustomed to the system,” said Curry.
“With this system, our dispatch will know where all of the drivers are, at all times. You cannot say you are at the harbour and you are at the airport, because how the app operates all of the information will come through here. It will suggest the closest driver to the job. We will also be able to tell the passenger the estimated time of the driver’s arrival, because we will know exactly how far they are.
“We are just upgrading the system,” he reiterated.
“Here Mobility’ is very good because once we are set up properly for the drivers, it has Quick Response Code (QRC) system. The QR will be posted in all hotels, bars and restaurants, which will allow persons to scan their phones and the request will come straight to the office, so that a taxi can be sent to that location right away,” added the union president.
Curry furthered that the GB Taxi Union has conducted a test run of the system and it has been working very well. “We had a test run this past weekend with the cabs and it went well. The only problem that we have is that some of the drivers are not savvy with the change in technology, but I am sure they will get it.”
He added that utilizing the app will alleviate the number of taxis parked around the harbour and other places, waiting to be hired.
“There is no Uber involved; we are simply upgrading our system and our vehicles,” stated Curry.