The Demise of the Taxi

Uber, Lyft, and other In-App Services reign supreme in today’s modes of transportation

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Hail a cab. Get in the back seat. Tell the driver your destination. Sit in silence. Pay the fare. Tip the driver. Exit the cab. Sounds pretty standard, but where’s the fun in that?

Taxicabs have been around since the 1890s, transporting passengers here and there, with little to no interaction. The driver is commonly seen as the mere chauffeur that the passenger relies on for a simple, quiet ride to his or her destination. And they say our generation is lacking in verbal communication!

With modern modes of transportation like Uber and Lyft, there is seemingly no need for traditional taxi services. While Generation Y is notorious for their stereotyped “lack of verbal communication.” Newer innovations like Uber and Lyft, transportation services intended to take the place of the traditional taxi, are proving just how social the digitally dependent Millennials are.

What is Uber?

What is Lyft?

According to Uber’s official website, the Silicon Valley-based company connects drivers and passengers through its apps. Since its birth in 2009, Uber prides itself on opening up more possibilities for drivers and riders worldwide.

Lyft (2012) is a San Francisco-based car service catering to 65+ cities nationwide with plans to expand the services globally. Passengers can get rides within minutes through Lyft’s “Three Ways to Ride” : Lyft, Lyft Plus, and Lyft Line.

How It Works

Uber.com, Lyft.com

Taxi Vs. App Services

Controversy

“The influx of competition has forced taxi cab and black-car owners to re-examine their businesses while leaning heavily on government regulators to keep the upstart startups in check” (Hawkings, 2014).

In early July, Uber said it would lower fare by 20 percent to make rides cheaper than yellow taxis.

Despite bad press in recent weeks, Uber remains the market leader in the United States. Uber provides seven times the rides of competitor Lyft, data from investment advisory firm FutureAdvisor shows.

Financially back by Goldman Sachs, Jeff Bezos, and Google, valued at $17 billion, Uber is in a political campaign. CEO Travis Kalanick calls the candidate Uber and the opponent “an asshole named taxi. Nobody likes him, he’s not a nice character, but he’s so woven into the political machinery and fabric that a lot of people owe him favors.” This down talk of taxis put Uber and Taxis in hot water. With the taxi’s aversion to technology and lack of organization, it is much simpler for services like Uber and Lyft to take over and weaken the traditional taxi industry.

Lyft, too, has been under scrutiny. The service has been admonished by the governor of New York and in response, Lyft said it would comply with the law and work with the TLC (Taxi and Limousine Commision). It is valued at $700 million and has been funded with the assistance of lobbyists and PR agents to win a public approval campaign. There was an issue with Lyft dispatching other for-hire bases. The TLC wanted to require these bases to provide trip records to “prohibit dispatching another base’s vehicle without an agreement between the bases” (Hawkings, 2014).

“Our stock is down a lot, purely because of the Uber hype.” — Andrew Murstein, President of Medallion FinancialUber lawsuit about driver’s providing misleading information on their background. The quality of background checks were being questioned.

“Uber’s rival Lyft has also been the subject of a civil action brought by the district attorneys, but Lyft has settled that suit by agreeing to avoid any misleading statements regarding its own driver background checks going forward. Lyft will also pay a $500,000 penalty, the district attorneys said.”

In Portland Oregon, there was strong government resistance against Uber, but on December 5, Uber was launched in the major city. Portland city commissioner Steve Novick was against the idea because it operated in the city illegally.

New Dehli, London, Spain and more countries are against the car service. A judge from Spain said, “driver’s lack the administrative authorization to carry out the job, and the activity they carry out constitutes unfair competition.”

My Experiences

NY Post Image

In the past, I’ve taken Lyft to job interviews, clubs, late night donut runs, and more. While I’ve never used Uber as a transportation service, I’ve heard nothing but good things. I use Lyft specifically because I know it’s a bit cheaper than Uber. My drivers are usually 20-something years old, very engaging and energetic, and genuinely interested in their passengers. I’ve had conversations ranging from career aspiration and the best restaurants in LA to rappers and relationship advice.

One of my more recent experiences, however, proved dramatically different from the rest. On a sunny Saturday in March my two friends and I scheduled a Lyft pick up from LMU to Manhattan Beach. I used my app to request the nearest Lyft driver, who happened to be Adrian, a 50-something year old man. He drove a Toyota sedan and it was clear English wasn’t his first language when I called over the phone. I know LMU’s campus can be a little tricky to navigate for a car service, so I took the initiative to call Adrian before he arrived on campus.

A: Hello?

J: Hi, is this Adrian?

A: Yes.

J: Hi Adrian, I just requested a Lyft ride from you. I’m at Loyola Marymount University. Which direction are you coming from?

A: Lincoln.

J: Perfect. I’m located in Leavy Cirlce, when you get to the security gate you can ask where that is. It’s the first entryway to the left when you arrive on campus.

A: (Silence)

J: Hello?

A: Yes?

J: Did you get that?

A: Uh… I’m driving right now, I where do you want me to pick me up?

J: It’s called Leavy Circle.

A: Huh?

J: LEAVY CIRCLE!

A: I don’t know what that is or how to get there. I will call when I get to your location. (Hangs up)

So after waiting 20 minutes for a 5-minute drive from Adrian’s previous location to LMU, I called Adrian again. I received a text saying: “Your Lyft Driver, Adrian, has arrived!” Adrian didn’t answer his phone. Three minutes I got a call. It was Adrian.

J: Hello?

A: (Silence)

J: Hello?

A: Hi, this is Adrian, your driver.

J: Hi. Are you here?

A: I am at the flags.

J: No, no, Leavy Circle. We’re at Leavy Circle, can you pick us up there?

A: No, I cannot.

J: I think you passed it on your way here, can you drive around?

A: I’m at the flag poles, that’s where I entered from.

J: Ok. Can you drive towards the other entrance of the school? That’s where we are.

A: Where?

We went back and forth for a while, and at that point I should have just requested another driver, but unfortunately, I didn’t. Eventually, we see Adrian’s car pull in to the Circle. Finally. During the quiet, awkward ride, I ask Adrian how long he’d been driving for Lyft; I sat in the passenger seat, my two friends in the back. He informed me that he had been driving for one month and that he only drives weekends for three to four hours a day. The drive from LMU to Manhattan beach was about 20 minutes. It was a popular beach day and traffic didn’t let up. Half way through the ride Adrian asks us if we are in a rush. We answer “No,” and he pulls in to the nearest gas station to fill up his gas tank. Never in my many Lyft rides had a driver stopped to get gas while his passengers were in the car.

By this point, I was furious. Adrian took his time filling up on gas, and when he returned to the driver’s seat, I asked him if the pit stop would count for my final payment. He reassured me that it wouldn’t be charged to my account, but being that he seemed very new and confused, I insisted that he cancel the trip on the app in front of me so that I knew for sure that I was no longer being charged. He told me he couldn’t do it. I asked why not, he didn’t respond. I asked “Why not” again and he mumbled, “I don’t know how” under his breath. I was beyond upset. “Okay,” I said, “Is there someone you can call to figure out how to cancel this ride while I’m still in the car?” He replied with a “No.” and after my persistence, he finally cancelled the ride on his phone. When the ride was over, I gave him a poor rating and no tip on my Lyft app.

Our ride back from the beach to school with Gurvir was much more pleasant. He pulled up in his white Audi A8, complete with cool air conditioning and complementary waters in the cup holders for each of us. I was shocked to discover that day was his first ever day of driving for Lyft. Though he was rather quiet, he laughed at the jokes and conversations between my friends and I. When there were silent moments he’d turn up the radio, when there were moments of conversation, he turned down the volume — a much more considerate ride in comparison to the first of that day.

Both Lyft rides were quite the contrary from what I was accustomed to in the past. Both Adrian and Gurvir were very quiet, perhaps because the were new drivers, and though Gurvir was more polite, both drivers weren’t as engaging as I had hoped. Maybe with the new wave of in-app services comes a broader demographic of people, blending with the original younger, friendlier crowd of drivers.

Lion Express Driver’s Take

“Whitney’s” Uber

With it being my cousin’s third month living in Los Angeles and her second week as an Uber driver, she prefers to go by the alias, Whitney instead of her real name, to avoid complete transperency. She shared with me the ins and outs of Uber, in-app transportation services, and the fall of the taxi:

“I haven’t picked up any celebrities yet, but a couple of passengers asked if I have, which makes me think that Uber might be a popular system for celebs, but who knows. I usually drive on Fridays and Saturdays, but there will be random week days when I’ll decide to drive. Monday nights there not a lot of action, but the weekends are always packed. One time, I picked up this girl from West LA at 12:30 or 1 in the morning and she asked me to drive her to Pomona. The total came out to about $90, so it was a good driving night for me!”

In terms of hospitality, Whitney* finds Uber to be top-notch.

“A lot of passengers ask me if I have water or snacks or goodies for them, and apparently Uber drivers stock there cars with that stuff to entertain and please their guests, but I didn’t have all of that and I could tell they were bummed”

Aside from Uber, Whitney has a full time job at a Public Relations Firm in Beverly Hills.

“I make about $200-$300 a weekend from Uber, which is nice. Uber is a good source of money. The company takes 20% and I get 80%; I can’t complain. Uber is perfect, it accepts my schedule and I probably make about $1000 a month. What I didn’t know is that some people drive for a living, as in, Uber driving is their full-time job and can make up to three grand a month just from driving. Another plus is that if you want to be a driver and you don’t have a car, Uber can provide you with a car and you pay it off by driving passengers. The money from the passengers’ fare goes to Uber until the car is paid off. Isn’t that neat?”

Whitney on Taxis:

“So now, Uber drivers can go to the airport. I guess they couldn’t before. Taxi drivers are really frustrated about this because Uber is ‘taking their business away from them.’ You know what, since I’ve moved to LA, I haven’t needed to use a taxi at all, and I rarely see people using them. I think Uber is the new taxi and over time, will there really be a need for taxis anymore? I don’t think so.”

Survey Results

From my survey results I found that most people prefer Uber and Lyft to the traditional taxicab, and between Uber and Lyft, 14.63% prefer Uber. As far as both app-based services, a majority of respondents liked the idea of a carpooling system. 56% of Uber/Lyft drivers engage in conversation with their riders and visa versa. Lastly, 10 out of 41 people knew one or more Uber/Lyft drivers. Not one respondent knew a taxi driver. It was no surprise to me that most of the respondents found their communication and interaction with their Uber/Lyft drivers to make their ride experience more enjoyable than that of a taxi. I was surprised though, to find that a good number of respondents sat in both the front and back seat of their Uber/Lyft car; I thought it was just me!

Uber’s newfound household name and Lyft up-and-coming fame are leaving traditional taxicabs in the dust. While I do believe that taxis will still be around a at least a few more years to a decade, being that they’ve been around for over a century, the industry is dying, and it’s inevitable for the overall switch from tradition to newer, digital-based entities to be made. While our generation may still be teased for not being as verbally competent as older generations, we do know a thing or two about successful innovation, and in-app services like Uber and Lyft are putting those stereotypes to sleep.

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