Even though I've been gone from the DC/Arlington area for 15 months....I still track local news.
This week, there's this report out about DC taxi business. What the taxi guys say for the DC region....is that they've sat and watched business spiral downward by twenty percent. Fewer trips....less profit....less potential for recovery.
Blame? Well, Uber.....the online capability that connects people who need rides with private drivers (not taxi-service)....got ahead. When faced with competition....rather than look at the Uber model and try to adapt parts of it to their system....the DC taxi system attack Uber in court and via the city council.
Uber got accepted by the public and I'd say that a quarter of the market has now been totally lost to the DC taxi system. It won't be coming back.
The main reason? Smart phones. Guys took the app, grasped the method of operation, and then learned how to use it quickly and efficiently.
Over the three-year period that I used DC taxi operations....I learned three key things. Almost none of them had a credit card capability (I've heard that most adapted in the last year)....so it meant that I had to carry cash, if I was going use a cab. Second, every single DC cab you rode in.....had a funky smell....not just mildew or body order but something like a dead fish. Third, few of the taxi drivers spoke English as their primary language and accents took some time to adjust to and accept.
On a hot summer day last year in late June.....I boarded a cab for my last trip out of Arlington to DC (Union Station was the request). The lady who picked me up was from Jamaica....with an accent that was delightful to hear but difficult to get across "Union Station". The car had no real suspension, and at times lurched a couple of inches to the left, or right. The seat was finished.....feeling more like tractor seat than a car seat. She offered up some free water to me....since her AC wasn't working and it was easily 95-degrees. I shock my head....mostly over this being my last trip in DC, and just hoped that we wouldn't hit nothing to kinda screw up this remarkable trip.
I have no doubt....Uber will continue to take away business, and another quarter of the business will evaporate by the end of 2015. Those without smart phones (the broke crowd of DC)....will stick with cabs. Those who adapt.....will give up cabs entirely. You can guess the business angle of this. Cabs will survive, but their customer base will hint of their future, and how people perceive them.