Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Little Disruption Now And Then

Gotta Go taxi at the scene of a party house

In France the other day an angry mob of cabbie sympathizers attacked an Uber car, damaging both the car and the young businesswoman passenger.

Uber is one of a number of new companies that rely on the ubiquitous phone app to connect customer with product in real time, in this case a ride.

To protect the iconic cab industry the French government enacted a law saying Uber cars must wait 15 minutes before responding to an Internet hail from a customer. 

Which would be kind of like our government passing a law in 1908 saying automobiles cannot go any faster than a horse.

In Amherst, in spite of an extensive PVTA free bus system, the cab industry exploded over the past few years going from one or two sleepy companies to an energetic dozen two years ago. 

But once the town enacted stricter inspection process requiring each cab to have an expensive meter installed the number of companies dropped to nine and certified cabs went from a high of 61 to the current 19.

Since Amherst is a college town it should come as no surprise that this new way of doing business gained an early foothold.  Both UMass and Amherst College have embraced Zipcars which will somewhat impact the local cab industry.

But the real cab killer is  Sobrio, a ride sharing program run by the Student Government Association that connects riders with customers at the tap of a finger.  The program test run last semester was so successful (handling 350-500 rides per weekend) the SGA decided to kill the more expensive less efficient "Sober Shuttle" bus program.

For traditional cab companies doing business in Amherst the handwriting is now etched on an electronic wall. "While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping."


Anonymous said...

Does the Sobrio service cost the passengers anything? If not, are they asked to make a donation to the cause?

Larry Kelley said...

Yes they charge per passenger., but at a cheaper rate than a commercial cab.

Anonymous said...

Well, their cars couldn't be in any worse shape than those cabs.

Anonymous said...

When I was a cab driver in Boston, we generally didn't like drunk passengers. They would fall asleep and you wouldn't know where to take them. They could be belligerent. They could throw up.
My guess is that cabbies in Amherst that can compete with the free bus service can handle having fewer drunks.

Walter Graff said...

There's room for everyone. Fear not, cabs will survive just fine in Amherst. Other people besides students use them and many students prefer them.

Larry Kelley said...

It will be easy to confirm via annual license renewals.

Walter Graff said...

Perhaps, but license renewals don't necessarily speak of success or failure. In many instances they speak of resources.

Take NYC for example. It now cost $1,000,000 to get a city license. The return on the investment is better than gold at this point there. Here it's never been as good.

There is a total population of about 90,000 in the area served by these cabs. I don't have numbers but would guess that in actuality those cabs serve a single digit population as a whole. Regulating them was the right thing to do as it got out of hand and safety issues were a huge concern. But $125 is not a lot for a license based on potential earnings.

The issue is getting your name out there. What makes it easy for the UMASS group and what might seem to you like tremendous success is that they use an app. NYC has an app for cabs and cars too. Easy. In fact I pay my cabs in NY by simply holding my phone up to the screen in the cab, Paid!

In Amherst it's far harder for the cab individuals who own cabs simply because they have to get their name out there. Just did a Google search and all that comes up are three cab names. To get the rest you have to dig deeper. Not good marketing. I do count 31 companies form Greenfield to Chicopee so there is a business here. If they were smart they would all get together and have an app and see their service increase substantially just as UMASS has made it real easy.

My point very simply is that transportation take on many forms and there is always room in one way or another for most of them.

Many students like the privacy of a personalized taxi. Others don't, don't care, or don't have mom and dads money to live off. And of course students aren't the only people to use taxis. As I look at reviews for those that actually use taxis, I find most say something like this:

"The charge was $18 for about a 10-12 minute drive; I don't know how that compares to other taxis around here, but it's a not a bad price compared to what I'm used to."

Dr. Ed said...

Walter, my experience with cabs in NYC was standing in front of the bus terminal and fruitlessly attempting to hail a cab.

I decided it easier/quicker to simply walk to the hotel. It's also the last time I went to a conference in NYC. I simply don't go., it's widely known that I won't go.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like this is an unlicensed cab service.

Walter Graff said...

Good to know Ed. I'll note that in my book.

There are more than enough cabs in NYC. But if you get there at 800-900am and 330-400pm or you end up at the Port Authority you'll have a hard time finding one. Any place but where the tourists are. There is even a taxi app that shows you on a map where every cab is. Buses and subways have an app too. Really helps when you are waiting for a bus to know how far it is away. Amherst taxis would be well served with an app.

Anonymous said...

How is this not a cab service with each car subject to buying a license from the town?

Anonymous said...

Each car should be getting a license from the town as they are a car for hire. If there are a 50-100 people that want to do this it would be a nice revenue boost to the town.

Anonymous said...

Each car should be getting a license from the town as they are a car for hire. If there are a 50-100 people that want to do this it would be a nice revenue boost to the town.

Which, of course, is more important than keeping drunk drivers off the road.

I hate to tell you folks, but the reason for the cab licenses costing money is that it was supposed to pay for -- and ONLY pay for -- the cost of inspecting and regulating said cabs.

Walter Graff said...

It's ride share and so skirts any responsibility or any legal need to get a license. It was started by students at UCONN. It's just a bunch of kids who offer rides and drivers can ask for donations to the ride. I think they offer Sobrio at six or seven colleges at this point.

Dr. Ed said...

It actually was closer to 5PM -- and yellow cab after yellow cab went by ignoring me -- something about "shift change" or something -- although if I were running a cab company, I'd have my shifts change at a different time just to get the business.

It's ride share and so skirts any responsibility or any legal need to get a license.

You know, kinda like a GOTV effort when you drive folks to the polls so they can vote for your candidate....

It was started by students at UCONN.

In the year 1989, UConn was essentially similar, or slightly less than UMass Amherst. But in the quarter century since, UConn has vastly surpassed UMass and is a far superior (undegergraduate) university.

Students are happier there, they learn more, and they get jobs.

Anonymous said...

"it's widely known that I won't go"

I'll say. I couldn't possibly count the number of times I've read that fascinating and essential tidbit -- along with absolutely every other detail about Ed's life -- in everything from breathless celebrity gossip reports to peer-reviewed monographs in scholarly journals. Heck, it's even on the back of cereal boxes, because everybody is always dying to know all about Ed, Ed, Ed!

Anonymous said...

I miss the blog that existed here before Ed showed up.

Walter Graff said...

They mentioned somethign about "Shift change" of "shifty looking"? LOL Yes shift changes in NY go from about 3:30 to 5pm with various cabs switching drivers between then and most switching at 330-4:30pm.

I'll tell them you said hello when I'm there this weekend.

Dr Ed said...

Walter, while I was attired appropriately for the conference I was attending, there were numerous minority women accompanied by small children and I interpreted the whole thing to be Classism and Racism -- and for all the talk, all the folks paid to deal with it and all the (often obtuse) rules against it, I was surprised that not a scintilla of effort was/is made to address this.

And that's why I walked BACK from the fancy-schmancy hotel that someone else was paying for upon my departure -- I "walk the walk" and didn't want to patronize a cab system that practices bigotry.

And I'll add that of all the cities I've been in, it is New York I detest the most, and my attitude now is that it merely is the halfway point to DC -- we have or haven't gone beyond it yet.

And Yankees Suck!

Dr. Ed (who will leave when he gets what he wants) said...

because everybody is always dying to know all about Ed, Ed, Ed!

I enjoy irritating you. I will continue to do so to the best of my abilities.

Hugs & kisses


Walter Graff said...

Cab drivers didn't pick up blacks in NYC as a whole back then, children or not. But now that "proper" Manhattan has now spread further north as far as 125th St and cabs regularly travel that far now, blacks are seeing more taxis stop for them.

Go Yankees!

Jagadeesh Kumar said...

Lot of people think Uber’s advantage is in its cost structure and lower fares. I don’t find that is important. Ubers model is flawed and may need to adjust especially in some countries to fit in with local laws