By Don McCurdy
Las Vegas cab drivers are reported to have developed a plan to combat shared ride services: they plan to boycott hotels. Say what? Well, not all at once, one at a time.
Not all of the drivers are participating, just members of the group -Vegas Drivers Unite. According to the report, the drivers boycotted a couple of strip hotels last month. Apparently, the hotels were so devastated that they didn't notice. I think that's pretty insensitive.
I am continually amazed at the various schemes the taxicab industry comes up with to combat the shared ride locusts eating their crops. A business executive that frequents Las Vegas for training hailed the arrival of shared ride service there because the taxicab industry in Las Vegas was so horrible that his company had to hire limousines to get reliable service.
He claims he saved a fortune when his company started using Uber. Perhaps, the Vegas Drivers Unite should focus on fixing the things that make riders want to use some other service instead of pretending they're doing something by implementing their denial of service scheme.
A recent article reported the findings of a study of transportation equity in Los Angles. The study reported some conclusions that I found fascinating.
For instance, the study reported that for all ethnicities the taxicab didn't arrive within an hour 10% of the time. The report also stated that blacks were 73% more likely to have their trips "canceled." No reference was made as to who canceled the trip or a definition of what defined a "cancel."
The report also indicated that blacks waited 52% longer for a taxi than whites. That statistic would indicate that taxicab drivers are prejudice, except for two glaring problems with that statistic, location and that the majority of drivers are minority drivers.
If you told me that blacks waited 52% longer at the corner of 7th and S Hope St. in Los Angeles than whites waiting at the corner of 7th and S Hope then I see major bias because 7th and S Hope is in a mixed community.
If you tell me that blacks waiting at the corner of 27th and Vermont, where I went to school, waited 52% longer than whites waiting at 7th and S Hope the statistic is meaningless. 27th and Vermont is in a black community.
Another assumption that the report seems to make is that the driver knows if the rider is black before arriving on the scene. I've only driven at three taxicab companies and managed two so I can't say how they dispatch trips in Los Angeles. However, I've never heard of a taxicab company that told the driver the race of the customer before, during or after a trip offer.
Does the call taker ask the customer what race they are out there? I know they don't ask in Houston or Austin. Maybe LA is special.
The study also established something I assumed, that Uber and Lyft responded more promptly in "low income neighborhoods." Uh, yeah. Let me tell you a little about Pavlov's taxicab driver, they go where they make the most money.
Generically, locations deemed "low income" also have another trait, high crime. Now we use all kinds of nice words like underserved, low income and disadvantaged, but taxicab drivers aren't politicians. If you have problems with customers in a particular area you avoid it like the plague.
Unlike Uber and Lyft drivers, taxicab drivers carry cash which exposes them to all types of issues not dealt with by Uber and Lyft drivers. The article pointed out that the taxicab driver in one incident asked for the fare in advance which they reported as the definition of discrimination. Sorry, that's just not so.
After dark I routinely asked young males for the fare in advance, regardless of color, especially if they were going to an address that is not a single family residence.
If asking for the fare in advance is discrimination then how is not discrimination for Uber and Lyft to demand a credit card and cell phone in advance? Now, I have heard tell of Uber drivers getting robbed and assaulted, but those situations are rare.
Fare jumpers, robbers and murderers are quite common for taxicab drivers. There are most certainly differences in service for taxicab drivers, but I would doubt that service differences are race related since drivers themselves today generally consist predominantly of very diverse minority groups.
Are there prejudiced taxicab drivers? Of course. However, prejudices are automatically assumed to involve white vehicle operators. This simply is not the reality. In today's taxi/car service world the dominant ethnicity of a taxi/car service is not white but of diverse minority groups.
The other factor not taken into account by the study is regulation. As indicated in the article it is illegal for a taxicab driver to ask for the fare in advance.
Taxicab drivers tend to avoid, for good reason, high crime areas. Is that prejudice? Yes, monetary and safety prejudice. Taxicab drivers load unvetted passengers every day all day long while Uber and Lyft drivers know they'll get paid. The customer has provided a credit card and a name and billing address for that card. See any difference there?
Uber and Lyft drivers don't pick up flags (street hails) at all. Some taxicab drivers also avoid picking up flags despite laws to the contrary.
There is an additional point that isn't considered: What is the size of the taxicab fleet versus the Uber and Lyft fleets in a respective community? A smaller number of vehicles will provide poorer service the further you get from the city center. How many vehicles are available to service the community? This is not a racial consideration but probably a very practical and economic one.
Studies of how race affects taxi/car service omit many important considerations. They are politically driven and not industry related. They all appear to delete very important data. In today's taxi/car service industry the race of the driver is probably not really a consideration at all because drivers represent, almost exclusively, the minority population.
And the winner is?
Reports are that General Motors has quietly installed a charging station in San Francisco for their driverless ride share vehicles. Their app, Cruise Anywhere, is reported to be ready for prime time next year and is currently being tested.
The company has installed 18 fast chargers in the largest charging stations of its kind to support their all electric fleet. GM has not ruled out working with a partner like Uber or Lyft on the project, but wants to keep its options open. It would be interesting if they started up in Uber and Lyft's back yard.
Missed by that much.
Well, we didn't get a former taxicab driver named to the Supreme Court. According to a report out of Boston Thomas Hardiman, who is on President Trump's list of potential Supreme Court nominees, worked as a taxi dispatcher/driver for Waltham Central Square Taxi the summer before attending Georgetown University.
Where's the win?
The predicted crash of the medallion market and loss of market share of the taxicab industry in New York City has put taxicab drivers and medallion owners in dire financial straits.
Recent suicides have brought the problem to light again, but there are no easy solutions for the city since transportation network companies are regulated at the state level.
The taxicab industry has reached out to their former protector, the regulator, but the protection isn't there. Stories abound about the hardship drivers and medallion owners are encountering. However, there seems no easy solution to the persistent crumbling of the taxicab industry nationwide let alone in New York City.
Add the impending future of the driverless for hire vehicle and the best advice for drivers is to find a different trade.
It appears that the era of the professional driver is coming to an end. It won't be next week, or even next year, but if you're depending on driving for a living the available opportunities are shrinking.
No ride for you!
Reports are that several GOP staffers were put out of an Uber car because they were wearing Make America Great Again hats. Apparently, it is acceptable for Uber drivers to reject customers with MAGA hats.
Several of the riders reached out to Uber regarding the situation but have yet to receive any meaningful response. This comes as an increasing number of like incidents against Trump administration members and Trump supporters.
It would appear that the divisive, punitive tendencies of the left are becoming more aggressive as the midterm elections approach. I don't know what Uber's response will be to the situation, if there is one, but I know what mine will be.
If you have any comments regarding this or any of my articles please feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. - dmc