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Kater Surprise

The kinda-ride sharing app kinda worked.

My wife and I recently stayed in downtown Vancouver for a couple of nights to celebrate the 20th anniversary of our engagement. (Yes, I’m aware she deserves a medal of honour for putting up with me for 20 years.)

We had gone to Granville Island to watch TheatreSports improv, and wanted to head back to Robson Street for a very late dinner. But the walk seemed especially arduous, given our empty stomachs. Even my favourite Vancouver transportation – the Aquabus – had wound down for the evening, making our walk even longer, as we would have to hike up to the Granville Street bridge.

No problem: we decided to take a cab. Slight problem: there were only two taxis at Granville Island and at least half a dozen parties wanting a ride.

Where’s Uber when I need it, I grumbled.

So we gave Kater a shot. What else could we do?

I’ve been a Kater skeptic, but it was very much an Uber-like experience. We watched our Kater work its way to us on the map, and our ride arrived within 6 minutes. We hopped into a brand new, sparkling clean vehicle, and went to Robson.

The Kater even had a karaoke machine in the back, complete with mics and disco lighting, so we did the only thing one could do in such a situation: we sang and laughed.

Our driver Robert got us to Robson in 10 minutes – and we were charged $3.35 for the base fare, $6.80 for the distance, and $3.10 for the time. We added a $5 tip and we left a five-star rating.

Total cost: $18.25. It wasn’t out of whack with what I’ve paid for rides in Dallas or New York City.

Kater worked. At least for us, on that particular trip.

As municipal councils, taxi lobbyists, ride sharing companies, the Horgan NDP, and the Passenger Transportation Board all tie themselves in knots over this issue, it’s easy to forget the most important thing: we need to make it convenient, inexpensive and safe to move people around the region. Ride sharing is a part of that equation.

As a fiscal conservative, I bristle at monopolies and overregulation and the inefficiency they wrought. It’s time for government to level the playing field, open up transportation options, and get out of the way.

But in the meantime, please don’t tell anyone else about Kater. I may need a ride again some time.

Jordan Bateman has a long history of public policy work, championing small business and fiscal responsibility. Currently the Vice President, Communications & Marketing for the Independent Contractors and Business Association (ICBA), Jordan also served six years as the B.C. Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and was a two-term Langley Township Councillor.