Uber close to a deal for a partnership with a San Francisco taxi outfit

San Francisco — Uber’s plans to attract more taxis to the platform in the coming years could soon take another big step.

The company will soon complete a deal with its San Francisco partner Flywheel Technologies, allowing Uber passengers in the city to call taxis via the Uber app. It was seen by the New York Times.

The next step is for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority’s board to approve the fine-tuning of the pilot program at a meeting on April 5. The city’s transport director then needs to approve it, an app used by some taxi companies to accept rides by hundreds of San Francisco taxi drivers who run Uber and Flywheel.

After a similar partnership between New York City’s Uber and a taxi company was announced last week, the agreement marks a sudden departure from the year of fierce battle between the two groups. If approved by the regulatory agency, the partnership in San Francisco will be in May.

Uber called the taxi industry corrupt and greedy, and San Francisco taxi companies once sued Uber in federal court for predatory pricing practices. Some taxi drivers disagree with the idea of ​​a partnership, because it reduces income and makes it more difficult for long-time taxi customers to get affordable vehicles.

This agreement is particularly surprising, as Uber’s hometown of San Francisco is one of the city groups that can actively resist Uber’s business. Uber endorsed California’s Proposal 22, along with other companies that utilize gig workers such as Lyft and DoorDash. Measures that give gig workers limited benefits but prevent them from being considered full-time employees. The measure was passed state-wide in 2020, but San Francisco was one of the few counties opposed by a majority of voters before the judge abandoned it last year.

In recent years, Uber has partnered primarily with taxi companies outside the United States, which announced in February that it added 122,000 taxis to its platform last year.

The taxi industry lost customers with ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft before the pandemic drastically reduced travel demand. The number of taxis operating during the pandemic was reduced to 400 before recovering from 1,300 to 600. .. By partnering with Uber, taxi drivers will have access to far more riders, and Uber will be able to get supplies in the form of hundreds of taxi drivers.

Last year, San Francisco approved a test program that allows passengers who order taxis using the app to receive guaranteed upfront costs, as well as Uber and Lyft features. The goal was to help taxi drivers make more money by competing. A phenomenon called meter anxiety — The anxiety of seeing a real-time increase in the cost of a taxi on a taximeter is the idea of ​​encouraging passengers to cancel their trip or avoid calling a taxi in the first place. The initial cost had to be the same as. Travel costs when calculated using a meter.

Uber wants to take part in this experiment with a twist. If San Francisco approves participation in a so-called “third-party dispatch service” like Uber, there is no prepaid fee that Uber charges customers to take a taxi through the app. Being the same as taking a metered taxi means that you can charge the same price as taking a regular UberX car. This is often cheaper than taking a taxi.

Some people are worried that San Francisco taxi drivers will be offered cheap vehicles that earn only a few dollars. vehicle.

“That’s not right,” said Evelyn Engel, a board member of the San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance, which assists taxi drivers. He said he had heard from the agency.

“Uber will have hundreds of full-time drivers on the platform,” said Engel, but taxi drivers “do not even pay for a ride that enables a dignified life.”

Muwaffaq Mustafa, 53, has decades of experience as a taxi driver and also runs Flywheel Taxi, a company that once sued Uber. Vehicles will be offset by greater demand, he said.

“We are optimistic that a successful deal will make up for all these depressed years. More phones, more value and more money,” Mustafa said.

George Rama, 60, who has been driving a taxi in San Francisco for 20 years, said a partnership is needed as passengers are completely ignoring taxis.

“No one is looking at us because Uber is conditioned to be faster, bigger fleet, cheaper,” Rama said.

In December, Hansu Kim, president and co-owner of the Flywheel taxi dispatch app, told the panel at a traffic regulator meeting that the taxi industry’s approach to technology was like “a dinosaur still in the tar pit.” Told. And he was talking to Uber to give taxi drivers access to customers for ride-hailing services.

“If we don’t adopt this technology as a standard, we’ll continue to be left behind,” Kim said in a video of the conference that the Times watched.

Uber can benefit from partnerships by providing access to potentially hundreds of drivers. Many drivers have said they have recovered in the last few months after many have left during the pandemic, but many still complain of low incomes and some say they have quit. As prices have risen, platforms or driving have begun to decline.

The Municipal Transportation Authority states that taxi drivers also benefit. “The taxi industry is leveraging Uber’s large number of passengers and pushing it into the taxi industry,” Forest Burns, the agency’s transportation planner, told taxi drivers at a recent Zoom conference. By the Times.

If taxi drivers are looking at more money through partnerships, it may encourage some ride-hailing service drivers to consider driving a taxi instead.

Marcelo Fonseca, 62, said it was better to “drive in the sky” than to participate in the driving of Uber and Lyft passengers.

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