One narrative for the influx of on-demand car services hitting cities across the country follows as such: plucky startups like Lyft and Uber are constantly fighting a battle with taxi companies, the old guard, who seek to unfairly regulate these new ridesharing platforms, thus stifling innovation. We’ve seen battles set against this narrative play out recently – most notably the saga between Lyft and the New York City Taxi and Limo Commission.
But here’s another way to look at it: apparently, Lyft, Uber, and the like are really putting the squeeze on taxis.
A new report in the San Francisco Examiner paints a dire picture for traditional taxi services in the city. According to the city’s interim Taxis and Accessible Services director for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the “health” of the taxi industry “overall is being impacted clearly” by on-demand ride companies like Uber and Lyft.
But how much? According to Kate Toran, average trips per cab fell from 1,424 in March of 2012 to 504 in July of this year – a roughly 65 percent decline.
Though business is business and all’s fair in love and capitalism, the encroachment of Uber on what was traditionally taxi territory may be having an unintended effect – on the city’s disabled population. From the SFExaminer:
Transportation network companies, unlike cabs, are not required to accommodate wheelchairs. Total wheelchair pickups by wheelchair-accessible taxis dropped from 1,378 per month in March 2013 to 768 per month this past July because it was difficult to get drivers to commit to the program that takes more time and money.
“The ramp taxi program is just a vulnerable program in the taxi program overall because it costs more to operate, maintain and it costs more in gas for the drivers,” Toran said. “It takes more time to do wheelchair securement, so it’s kind of the first to go.”
Of course, Uber and Lyft don’t require their drivers to equip their cars with accessibility features.
Some may say good riddance to the old school taxi industry – and that’s completely fair. But it’s important to know that the plucky startup vs. the big bad taxi narrative isn’t entirely accurate, at least not anymore.
Image via SFMTA, Facebook