As Uber, Lyft and other ridesharing companies continue to prosper, California is seeing a reckoning with the question of their need for regular taxis.
To fight back against the dominance of ridesharing apps, the City of Los Angeles is enacting sweeping changes to its taxi system.
The change has been a long time coming. Taxis aren’t as appealing to younger people, and have been seeing a cannibalizing of their revenues in Los Angeles, where drivers are petitioning for changes to the Los Angeles Airports’ pickup system.
According to statistics from the airport, taxis handled only 22 percent of pickups from the airport for the first three quarters of 2019 — the rest were all eaten up by ride shares.
The system, according to The New York Times, sees a new lane called LAX-it, where rideshare vehicles zoom by to pick up passengers. On the other side of the curb, taxis are idle and waiting for people to come and need their services.
Drivers say the system is unfair. And it’s not just the airport – the Los Angeles Department of Transportation says that taxi business has dropped 75 percent since Uber first arrived in town in 2012.
To combat the decay, the city is changing the system.
According to the NYT, under the new system, passengers will now just call a centralized dispatch to request a taxi, rather than having to contact one of several different companies. There will be a cell phone app as well, if customers prefer to do it that way. And passengers will know the cost of their ride before getting into the cab, which has been a sticking point with younger riders who were previously only familiar with Uber and Lyft.
The meters will be modernized, and the cabs will no longer have to conform to certain garish colors and old-school designs. This, according to the LA Transportation Department, is intended to give them more freedom to be unique.
But as the world continues to change, even drastically from just a decade ago, taxi companies are betting they have a chance to continue to survive.
Taxis, after all, still have a place for those who make lower wages, as they usually use cash to pay for things and may not have a car or a credit or debit card to pay an Uber driver.
Simon Momennasab, general manager of Bell Cab, said they’ve been petitioning the city for changes to the taxi service for years, including speeding up the permitting service and allowing them to charge a flat fare.