Tony Elzayat remembers when he, his spouse and friends tried to get a cab one evening in downtown Fredericton last November but all their phone calls went unanswered.
This frustration led Elzayat to start a new ride-sharing service, Easy Services, that launches today in the Fredericton and Oromocto areas.
“We had to walk home in minus 20 degrees, and that was the fire that started this,” Elzayat said.
“We said, ‘We’re human beings, and we refuse to be treated like animals, and the only way we can solve it is to do it ourselves.’”
The app created by Elzayat is called Easy Customer, but there are three services offered within the Easy brand: Easy Cab, Easy Senior Services and Easy Deliveries.
Much like Uber, Easy Services users can book rides instantly or schedule them for later. They can choose vehicles such as sedans. Cars are tracked via GPS and will show users where the driver is from the time of booking to the time of pickup.
Elzayat said the service will provide special pricing for university students.
He said that as an employer, Easy Services will also stand out from the taxi companies in town.
“Easy Cab is going to create freedom of working [on your own time],” Elzayat said, referring to Easy Services.
“If you have a second job or you only want to drive on the weekend or for a special event, you can work any time you want and create your own schedule.”
To become an Easy Services driver, applicants must have their own vehicle, a standard Class 5 driver’s license, taxi insurance and a clean background check.
Elzayat said the company is not classified as a taxi company, which means drivers can use their own vehicles with the proper insurance.
Easy Senior Services will provide round-trip transportation to medical appointments, day surgeries, hospital discharges and social outings. Easy Services will also deliver food right to your doorstep.
Elzayat said Easy Services will charge about 67 cents per kilometre and the cost will be determined before your order is placed.
The app is available for download in the app store on Android and Apple phones.
Students from St. Thomas University are excited to have another travel option.
First-year student Hannah Gibson, who studies political science, said she isn’t satisfied with the current options students have for cabs.
“If I need to get anywhere, typically, I take the bus, which I hate because the busses never run on time, or the apps are never up to date,” said Gibson.
“It’s a real pain.”
Other students at STU haven’t had enjoyable experiences either, such as third-year French honours student, Leah Mitchell.
Mitchell lives about 20 kilometres away from STU in Maugerville and said she isn’t impressed with the cab services she’s received.
“Getting into the city alone is a hassle for me,” she said.
“Cabbing from downtown Fredericton to my home costs about $24, which is ridiculous.”
Mitchell said during her first year she took cabs a couple of times a month to get to morning classes and experienced issues with cabs taking a long time to get to her house.
“Having an 8 a.m. class and me calling them at 6:30 and them not showing up until 7:30 a.m. is absolutely ridiculous,” she said.
Taxi company skepticism
While Easy Services seems to be a welcome addition for students in Fredericton, it means local cab companies will be facing competition.
Checker Cab co-owner George Youssef said he is skeptical about these apps coming to town.
He doesn’t think there will be enough drivers because, in comparison, Youssef said Checker has 50 cabs.
“[Easy Service is] just a start-up where there are very few vehicles, I’m not sure how that’s going to work,” Youssef said.
“The service they’re going to give to you with these few vehicles, you’ll be waiting for hours.”
Youssef said Checker has spent six months developing an app of their own for customers to book rides and plans to launch the app shortly before Christmas.
Within the last ten years, Youssef said cab fare in Fredericton has gone up by roughly 30 per cent in order to pay for increased gas and insurance prices.
“When we’re looking at the parts, the parts go up. When we’re looking at tires, the price of tires is going up. The price of gas is still up. So it’s very difficult for us to give any discounts to anyone with everything against us right now.”
For now, Youssef said a service like Easy Services won’t affect his business.
“I don’t think it’ll have any effect on us because we’ll be 10 or 20 times bigger.”