Just rides: Ride-hailing, the capabilities approach and the just city


  • Jonathan Woodside School of Planning, University of Waterloo


Splatform economy, The just city, The capabilities approach, Ride-sharing


Vehicle-for-hire services are critical for the local economy and are frequently regulated by municipalities. With ridehailing platforms taking a dominant role in organizing the industry today, the treatment of workers has emerged as a subject for political debate about what municipalities can do to support local workers. This case study examines how justice for platform drivers should be considered at the municipal scale. It does so by examining the experience of drivers in the City of Toronto and surrounding Greater Golden Horseshoe. Drawing on Susan Fainstein’s just city theory and particularly her use of the capabilities approach to human development, the paper examines how diverse values are expressed in the capabilities of individual drivers. Results show that drivers are drawn to the flexibility of the industry but are empowered only by sacrificing other capabilities and ultimately suffer from multiple vulnerabilities such as poor pay and unfair discipline. At the same time, the paper finds a latent solidarity amongst drivers that seeks empowerment against arbitrary and unilateral judgements from platforms or government regulators. The paper concludes by considering a renewed orientation for local authorities to support drivers by enabling driver capabilities.