A ride-along with Driver Dave’s

From stu­dent start-up to word-of-mouth suc­cess, David Wolpin’s ride-shar­ing taxi­cab al­ter­na­tive is Hal­i­fax’s home­made an­swer to Uber.



this is Singh from Driver Dave’s,” reads the in­tro­duc­tory text. “I’m plan­ning to pick you up at 7:10pm.”

Singh has an of­fice job but his boss is un­aware of his moon­light­ing, so we’ve agreed to with­hold his last name. He used to drive a taxi, but for the last two-and-a-half years Singh’s been be­hind the wheel at Hal­i­fax’s fa­mous air­port cab al­ter­na­tive—shut­tling swarms of mi­grat­ing univer­sity stu­dents and other HRM res­i­dents to En­field and back. It’s a good gig. “You don’t feel like you’re driv­ing a cab,” he says. “It feels like a fam­ily.”

In the last seven years, Driver Dave’s has gone from stu­dent start-up to word-of-mouth suc­cess, em­ploy­ing 18 driv­ers in its sta­ble who ferry pre-booked riders from the Hal­i­fax Stan­field In­ter­na­tional Air­port to their front doors.

Com­pany pres­i­dent David Wolpin wouldn’t dis­close rid­er­ship num­bers, but a Util­ity and Re­view Board de­ci­sion from 2013—more on that in a minute—pegged his cus­tomer base at some­where be­tween 2,500 and 3,333 rides per month. Wolpin es­ti­mates up to 80 per­cent of those trips are stu­dents.

“I didn’t do any advertising,” the com­pany’s founder says over the phone. “All this busi­ness came to me. I didn’t steal it.”

Grow­ing up in New Brunswick on his par­ent’s farm, Wolpin never thought of him­self as an en­tre­pre­neur. Those were the peo­ple who had busi­ness cards and web­sites “but didn’t re­ally do any­thing.”

It was while study­ing at the Univer­sity of King’s Col­lege that he started driv­ing peo­ple to the air­port. First, his room­mates. Then, his class­mates. Then his class­mates’ room­mates. It snow­balled from there.

In 2010, Driver Dave’s be­came a real busi­ness—al­beit one op­er­at­ing il­le­gally. Wolpin’s com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle li­cense only al­lowed him to de­liver cus­tomers to des­ti­na­tions out­side the mu­nic­i­pal­ity. The air­port, be­ing within HRM lim­its, was out.

Wolpin says he only be­came aware of the reg­u­la­tion af­ter 18 months in op­er­a­tion. By then the com­pany had it­self a sub­stan­tial fol­low­ing of cus­tomers. So Wolpin fought back, at the UARB and in the press. When that was un­suc­cess­ful, he found a work­around. Li­censed limou­sine driv­ers like Singh, all of whom own their own ve­hi­cles, are now em­ployed as sub­con­trac­tors for Driver Dave’s book­ing ser­vice.

The change hasn’t im­pacted busi­ness. Driver Dave’s pop­u­lar­ity is ob­vi­ous—its only

Driver Dave Wolpin’s busi­ness has taken off. com­pe­ti­tion is an im­per­fect air­port bus route ser­vic­ing a sin­gle down­town lo­ca­tion, lim­ited on-sea­son shut­tle ser­vices and ex­pen­sive cab rides. A taxi from the air­port to down­town is go­ing to cost $60. Driver Dave’s is $35 for in­di­vid­u­als; $20 per per­son if you ar­range a group of three or more. Cash only.

“I’m not say­ing that the taxi in­dus­try is crooked, but I am say­ing that there is a sig­nif­i­cant—no, take that word out—there is a notewor­thy contin­gency of Hal­i­fax taxi driv­ers that find ways to charge sig­nif­i­cantly more than the legally posted rate,” Wolpin says. “Now, if you quote me on say­ing that, I also want you to in­clude that while it is wrong for them to do so, the eco­nom­ics of the in­dus­try make it per­fectly un­der­stand­able.”

Hacks dead­head be­tween the city and air­port all day long with­out bod­ies in their seats, Wolpin says. It’s empty freight. He es­ti­mates three-quar­ters of Haligo­ni­ans couldn’t care less if they share a ve­hi­cle with strangers. Some even pre­fer it.

“I’ve def­i­nitely come out of Driver Dave’s cars with peo­ple’s num­bers be­fore,” says Brooke, the King’s stu­dent Singh is bring­ing to the air­port.

Af­ter help­ing his pas­sen­ger with his bags, Singh climbs back into the driver’s seat to text his next cus­tomers; thumb­ing through a colour-coded spread­sheet on his phone to find their num­bers. All of the ar­range­ments are han­dled for him by dis­patch. Singh just sub­mits the hours he wants to work and fo­cuses on driv­ing.

“That’s one key rea­son I chose Dave,” he says. “He re­spects ev­ery­one...He’s not forc­ing some­one to be on the road.”

Although Driver Dave’s is his name­sake, Wolpin’s “real iden­tity” is a province over, tend­ing to his 350-acre farm and the Kredl’s Cor­ner Market he owns in Hamp­ton, NB. That doesn’t mean he’s an ab­sen­tee boss. Wolpin is still very much en­trenched in grow­ing Driver Dave’s suc­cess, even as the threat of other rideshar­ing ser­vices like Uber, im­proved tran­sit and even copy­cat en­trepreneurs threaten to steal his market share. He pays them no mind.

“If you’re wor­ried about com­pe­ti­tion, you’ve al­ready lost,” say Wolpin. “If you’re wor­ried about com­pe­ti­tion, then maybe you’re do­ing some­thing wrong with your busi­ness by not mov­ing with the times.”

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