Thursday, February 20, 2014

Taxis and their discontents

So I have to admit that before this week I did not think much, or know much, of this whole ride sharing enterprise that has jumped into the news here. Turns out the emergent transportation paradigm has been making a lot of news across the country.  While the issues seem simple, should individuals be allowed to compete against established taxi services, this gets to some very fundamental questions on the role of government. It is also not a new debate. The fundamental question is whether taxi service should be deregulated. Political arguments over deregulation have been percolating ever stronger since the early 1980s. 

But the issue at hand is taxi service. So just to get up to speed on the state of all such things here is what I found for a quick reading list:

BusinessWeek: Invasion of the Taxi Snatchers: Uber Leads an Industry's Disruption

Atlantic: Taxi Drivers Miffed Over Uber and Lyft Just Sued the City of Chicago

 GeekWire: With ride-sharing regulations, Lyft president says Seattle’s leaders will look bad on national stage

DailyBeast: Uber and its enemies

ConsumerReports: Don't risk your car insurance by operating your vehicle as a part-time taxi

LAMag: Car and Driver Uber Takes Aim at Lyft in Facebook Ad Campaign

and here is a critique that is curious. Could this really result in fewer car sales? CBS: More car-sharing means fewer car sales

What is the deal here?  Most all agree that the state of taxi service in Pittsburgh is  just plain bad. Folks from out of town have long been befuddled by the inability to hail a taxi on the street, even though that is not that common a service in many cities. Thing is that there have been efforts to expand competition of taxi services over the decades, especially in underserved areas, but those efforts rarely had enough support to get off the ground. The recent startup of City Cab is barely a couple years old, but is just a geographic-constrained offshoot of Yellow Cab, so not really new competition. Most of the past competition to Yellow Cab (anyone remember People's Cab as an independent company) has faded away. The deeper question really is why has there been so little successful competition in local cab service?

Once taxis poached business from the railroads, and were successful despite legal efforts to prevent them from providing service between railroad stations. While a tempest, the debates today are much the same debate, just with new players. I really think the only way this has all gotten this far here is because the French now own Yellow Cab. The local Pittsburgh Transportation Group, which owns Yellow Cab, is itself a subsidiary of the conglomerate Veolia, another subsidiary of which is managing the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority by the way. Back in the day this would have all been a nonstarter given the local political connections of Yellow Cab. This all may be our way of getting back at the recent French diplomatic warning on travel to Mount Oliver. I still want to know how folks in Paris even knew there was this place called Mount Oliver here. but I digress.

Anyway.  Legal machinations will ensue for sure, and others will have to opine how that will work itself out. For now it seems the new service is de facto in operation without any imprimatur of government. Who knew John Galt had a pink mustache?


Blogger Vannevar said...

I do wonder if the CBS claim confuses causation. For instance, suppose other factors cause fewer car sales. Wouldn't that cause increased demand for car sharing? (instead of vice versa, as suggested) Excellent post, btw.

Thursday, February 20, 2014 8:36:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

I thought the problem wasn't just that you can't hail a taxi on the street, but that you can't get them to show up when called unless you want to go to or from the airport. Also, with a reasonable tip, it's $60 from the airport to Squirrel Hill. Somebody should put a train out there.

Friday, February 21, 2014 10:06:00 AM  
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It may to boot supply them some insight thereon of these companies care concerning the people who ride with them. Trans city Cab, already having shelled out thousands of bucks a month to protect voters for three years previous and running is definitely note worthy.

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