Saturday, September 20, 2008

Socialists fighting environmentalists in Canada

On one side are the municipal bus companies.  The left has showered them with monopoly status and government-subsidies.  Politicians love them because what could be a better way of collecting bribes and favors than negotiating a renewal of some company's monopoly rights, not that any our honest politicians would ever actually do that.

On the other side are websites, like PickupPal, which arrange "ride-sharing."  They offer to match you with "pickup pals" who have "friendly faces."  However, what they offer is not exactly the usual left-liberal idea of "sharing": drivers and passengers negotiate fees for service.

Now, the bus companies, with their monopoly status, are suing the ride-sharing websites claiming that those websites are offering, at least under Canadian law, an unlicensed competing service.  In Canada, the Ontario Highway Transportation Board (OHTB) reportedly has shut-down all such "ride-sharing" organizations that have appeared before it.  Currently, PickupPal is the only one left and their hearing is scheduled for October 15, 2008.

Normally, the left would prefer "mass transit" over a private limousine service, such as PickupPal, but, in a piece of brilliant marketing, PickupPal convinced Canadian Environmental Minister Christine Stewart that PickupPal is "eco-friendly" and "CO₂ reducing".  This has turned the tables as, normally, it is the "mass transit" companies that claim the mantle of being "eco-friendly," something that is hard to believe as those smog-belching buses drive by you on a street.  PickupPal's marketing move is all the more impressive considering that, for all Ms. Stewart knows, your "pickup pal" could be driving a dreaded SUV.

This battle over monopolist rights is not limited to Canada.  A French bus company, TSE, "sued several French cleaning women for car pooling and even petitioned the French government to confiscate their cars."  The UK Guardian has more on this.

1 comment:

Eric Dewhirst said...

What an interesting post. I have not heard that perspective on this issue and to tell you the truth it is kinda cool. I am one of the founders of PickupPal and I wish we/I could take the credit for such an ingenious plan but it is not as intentionally clever as you have put it. Christine Stewart is my business partner - John Stewart's mother and one of our earliest supporters and inspiration for creating PickupPal. John's Mother signed the Kyoto Protocol on behalf of Canada a decade ago and since then there has not been that much movement towards meeting that goal on the part of the Canadian Government. John and I thought that we could tap into an economic force that would provide environmental benefit by having people see carpooling and ridesharing as a way to sell a seat in their car. Hence the tag line - "Drivers and Passengers
connecting online. Saving money and the environment at the same time!"

Thanks a lot for taking the time to write such an interesting take on this topic.


Eric Dewhirst
CTO and Co-Founder of PickupPal

Clicky Web Analytics