Tag Archives: austin cab

After years of trying to catch up to competitors Uber and Lyft, lesser-known ride-hailing startup Sidecar is ceasing operations.

Another taxi drama

Another taxi drama

The company will stop offering all rides and deliveries on December 31, 2015 at 2 pm PT. Sidecar founder and CEO Sunil Paul announced the decision in a Medium post on Tuesday.

Sidecar was an early competitor in the ride-hailing app world. Launched in 2012, it raised $35 million in funding from major venture capital firms, including Virgin’s Richard Branson.

It branched out to a number of U.S. cities, but never managed to find the same loyal following, or funding, as Uber and Lyft. Uber has become the most valuable private company in the world.

Sidecar has claimed it invented the concept of ride-sharing, in which a smartphone app is used to connect people with drivers using their personal cars. Though Uber existed first, it only worked with limos at first.

“We are the innovation leader in ridesharing despite a significant capital disadvantage, continually rolling out new products that set the bar for others to follow,” said Paul in the post.

The struggling company was dabbling in other business models to help drum up business. Starting in 2014, Sidecar started doing same day deliveries for e-commerce companies like EAT24. Uber launched its own delivery business in April 2015.

In May, Sidecar announced it was teaming up with medical-marijuana delivery startup Meadow to handle its same-day deliveries in the Bay Area. The drivers needed to be medical marijuana patients themselves and members of the dispensary sending out the packages.

The company is not disappearing completely. The remaining team will “work on strategic alternatives and lay the groundwork for the next big thing,” said Paul.

Seattle is first city in nation to give Uber, other contract drivers ability to unionize


seattle Taxi Vs Uber

seattle Taxi Vs Uber


The Seattle City Council voted unanimously Monday to give taxi, for-hire and Uber drivers the ability to unionize.

Mayor Ed Murray won’t sign the ordinance, but his signature is not needed for the bill to become law, he said.

The National Labor Relations Act gives employees the right to collective bargaining. But drivers for taxi, for-hire and app-dispatch companies like Uber and Lyft are categorized as independent contractors, rather than employees, so those federal protections don’t apply to them.

Seattle is the first city in the U.S. to establish a framework for contract drivers to organize and to bargain for agreements on issues such as pay and working conditions.

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Backers of the groundbreaking bill, including drivers, broke into applause after the vote in the council’s crowded chambers and chanted, “When we fight, we win!”

Takele Gobena, a 26-year-old Uber driver and a leader among those pushing for unionization, called Monday’s vote a victory. He was temporarily kicked off the app in August just a few hours after taking part in a news conference with Councilmember Mike O’Brien, the bill’s sponsor.

“I’m so excited. I’m so happy,” said Gobena, of SeaTac. “This is a big change for us.”

Uber and Lyft opposed the ordinance and argued O’Brien’s proposal violates federal labor and anti-trust laws, meaning the city likely will be sued.

“Uber is creating new opportunities for many people to earn a better living on their own time and their own terms,” the company said in a statement Monday.

Murray sent council members a letter before their vote expressing reservations about the bill. He’s worried about costs related to managing the bargaining process and defending the ordinance in court, he said.

But O’Brien struck a triumphant note.

“This bill was only introduced out of necessity after witnessing how little power drivers themselves had in working for a living wage,” he said, adding, “I am proud Seattle is continuing to lead the nation in advancing labor standards for our workers.”

Under the ordinance, a taxi, for-hire or app-based vehicle-dispatch company will be required to provide the city with a list of its Seattle drivers. Then a nonprofit organization — most likely a union — will use the list to contact the drivers.

The nonprofit organization will need to gain the support of a majority of a company’s drivers to be designated by the city as their bargaining representative.

The ordinance will require the company to hammer out an agreement with the representative organization. The city will enforce the ordinance’s requirements through penalties such as fines but not by revoking a company’s license to operate.

The backdrop for the council’s vote is a nationwide conversation about what role governments should play in the country’s growing app-powered gig economy.

Companies like Uber and Lyft for rides, TaskRabbit for odd jobs and GrubHub for food delivery are attracting workers by offering more flexibility than conventional jobs.

But labor activists and others are worried about apps making it easier for companies to contract with independent workers and avoid paying minimum wages and benefits.

Drivers from several cities, including Seattle, are suing Uber for categorizing them as independent contractors, and politicians in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere are talking about whether a new benefits system or new worker category might be needed.

The lawsuits will focus on whether Uber controls drivers by setting fares and deciding who can work or whether drivers are in charge by setting their own schedules.

O’Brien’s proposal grew out of organizing by taxi, Uber and Lyft drivers in Seattle and from advocacy by Teamsters Local 117. Some drivers backing the bill have said that, after expenses, they make far less than the city’s minimum wage driving for Uber and Lyft. Other drivers have said they like the way the industry operates now.

Uber ramped up its engagement in Seattle before Monday’ vote. David Plouffe, a former political strategist for President Obama now serving as Uber’s chief adviser, visited Seattle earlier this month to promote the company and criticize the ordinance.

The company recently chose the city for its launch of devices on some vehicle windshields that light up to help drivers connect with waiting riders. Last week, it began offering a new service in Seattle called UberHop; vehicles pick up riders at set spots along set routes. The company has been advertising heavily in local media, as well.

The council’s finance committee approved the ordinance in October but O’Brien’s delayed the final vote so lawyers for the city could work to make it more legally sound.

Uber has sued King County and Seattle law firm Keller Rohrback in an attempt to block the county from releasing, under a public-records request by the firm, the number of licensed drivers the company has here. In an interview during his visit to the city, Plouffe told The Seattle Times that Uber has more than 10,000 drivers in the city.

Dan Clark, 64, a part-time Uber driver from Auburn, is against O’Brien ordinance because “it just seems wrong to have a union come in and dictate everything,” he said.

Uber and Lyft could raise fares in Seattle. But Gobena, who said he drives 55 hours a week in addition to attending college, said he believes passengers are on his side.

“The riders, they see how much we’re paid … They feel so bad,” the pro-union driver said. “We are just asking Uber to pay us a living wage. Seattleites want that.”

Daniel Beekman: 206-464-2164 or dbeekman@seattletimes.com. Twitter @DBeekman

Paris attacks: Taxi drivers, householders offer shelter to stranded strangers with #PorteOuverte


paris attack

paris attack


Social media users are now using #PorteOuverte to connect those needing shelter with those who are willing to give it, and by taxi drivers offering people free rides out of the city.
Parisians are opening their homes to those unable to find shelter during the terror attacks unfolding in the French capital.

French-Algerian journalist Nabila Ramdani told the BBC people were being evacuated from buildings and told to go to secure locations but had limited means of doing so.

“People are being told to evacuate the places like restaurants and indeed concert halls where they have been going to on a Friday night, relaxing, going to for dinner with friends or family outside or attending a concert,” she said.

“They are now being told to go back home and stay at home. Of course the obvious problem they are facing at the moment is how to go back home.

“The thing that French transports are not even safe, to get on board, that’s the situation.”

Several Paris Metro lines have been closed and French president Francois Hollande has declared a state of emergency for all of France and closed the borders.

Australian Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson told News 24 said there was a lot of confusion on the streets of Paris.

“You can feel the chill in the environment because it’s clear that nobody is clear on what has happened,” he said.

“Most people as a consequence have gone to safety and wherever they can find it.

Getting Over Taxis

Taxi Austin

Taxi Austin

I find Susan Crawford’s arguments in Getting Over Uber puzzling and unconvincing on a number of fronts.
First, consider the statement:
Uber drivers have a tough time making a living; they’re responsible for their own cars, fuel, benefits, maintenance, tolls, and certain insurance as well as the kickback to Uber that takes a substantial slice out of every fare they pick up…. Uber consistently squeezes its drivers as tightly as it possibly can; new drivers are paying an even higher cut to Uber than the first generation did.
Most taxicab drivers also have a tough time making a living. They aren’t responsible for their own cars, maintenance, and some insurance, but they do have to pay for their own fuel, tolls, benefits (because 87% of all taxi drivers in the US are independent contractors), and they pay a daily rental fee that is far higher than any possible slice of every fare that an Uber or Lyft driver picks up.
The charged language “kickback to Uber” is particularly loaded and inappropriate, given that the slice of a driver’s daily revenue that is taken by Uber is actually less than that taken by the typical taxicab owner, albeit in the form of a daily rental fee for the taxi rather than a percentage of every fare.
I’m not going to bother rebutting Susan’s statement:
“[Uber drivers] may or may not know where they’re going, and they may or may not be driving cars that are safe.”
given the experience that I have had (and Susan herself must have had) in taxis whose drivers don’t know where they are going, driving old rattletrap cars that wouldn’t pass an Uber or Lyft inspection.
Do the Math: Taxi vs Uber
A taxi driver typically rents his or her taxi from the owner, usually for a fee of $100 to as much as $130 a day (or, assuming the driver works 5 days a week), a total of $2000 to $2600 a month.) This is referred to as “the gate.” The driver keeps 100% of all fares and tips over that amount, but that is the cost of entry.
Now, compare Uber: you provide your own car, but you pay no daily rental fee. You keep 70–75% of every fare (Lyft gives the driver 80%, and if you’re a full time driver with Lyft, you keep 100% of every fare.) For the 25–30% share that Uber keeps to equal a $100 Gate fee for a taxicab, the driver would need to generate $400 per day in fares. That’s the equivalent of $2000/week or $100,000/year!
Given the enormous pushback when Uber claimed that some of their drivers could make as much as $100,000/year, this number seems unlikely. (felix salmon had glowing things to say last year in The Economics of “Everyone’s Private Driver.” After a scathing rebuttal from Tom Slee, Salmon wrote another, somewhat apologetic correction about having misinterpreted Uber’s projections of possible driver income.) That means that the share of the driver’s income taken by a taxi company is far greater than the amount taken by Uber.
This comparison isn’t entirely fair, because the taxi driver does not have to provide his or her own vehicle. But what does that cost?
A quick internet search shows that I could lease a 2013 Toyota Camry from Uber’s leasing affiliate for payments as low as $109/week, and Allstate told me I could insure a similar vehicle for $103/month. That works out to about $25 per day, assuming that the vehicle is driven 5 days a week. That is probably on the low side, but the point remains: it is a fraction of the cost of the daily rental that most taxi drivers pay.
There is one other simple thought experiment that you can make to understand the fallacy of Susan’s argument. And that is to ask how taxi owners make their money. They rent their cars to drivers. If the rental income they received from drivers weren’t higher than the costs of owning, insuring, and servicing the car, not to mention the cost of purchasing the medallion (which can cost many hundreds of thousands of dollars), they would be out of business.
The Path To Ownership
Using this back of the napkin math, it appears that on the cost side, being an Uber driver is a better deal than being an independent taxi driver. And while the amount that you can make as an Uber driver is a matter of considerable debate (see Felix Salmon vs Justin Singer), it is almost surely higher than the median income for taxi and limousine drivers in 2012 reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
So why don’t more taxi drivers switch? Many do. But I suspect that the reason others do not is the same reason that many low wage workers can’t get better jobs: they can’t afford to. Buying a new car of your own may be cheaper than renting a taxi by the day, but you have to have good credit to make the purchase. As is so often the case, the poor pay more because they can’t afford to pay less.
Uber recognizes this problem, and has been trying to make it easier for potential drivers to acquire their own cars. Their first foray into vehicle leasing was a disaster, with many drivers getting in over their heads with cars they couldn’t afford, paid for with leases they couldn’t get out of. Recognizing this problem, Uber has been working hard to make car leases both more affordable and more flexible.
There is one set of taxi industry players that is particularly hard hit by disruption from Uber and Lyft, and that is medallion owners. (I am particularly sympathetic to the plight of individual medallion owners, many of whom worked their way up from being drivers.) They paid a lot of money for the exclusive right to operate taxis in a particular city, without competition, allowing them to keep fares high, and they are being challenged by upstarts not just with better technology and better user experience but with a different economic theory: that if you can drive down fares sufficiently, you will increase utilization to the point where people choose on-demand transportation over the alternative of owning and driving their own car. And further, they are betting that that increased utilization will provide better income to drivers despite the lower fares. (See my previous piece, Improving Uber’s Surge Pricing, for more details.)
There is no question that there was a path to ownership of a valuable asset in the previous regime of taxi medallions that is no longer available in the Uber era, but that opportunity was available to few, and most taxicab drivers are simply low-paid independent contractors with high costs and little ability to grow their income.
Tim O’Reilly