Uber will soon offer taxi rides in San Francisco
Uber customers in San Francisco may soon find a traditional taxi waiting for them when they use the app to request a ride. According to San Francisco Chronicle, the ride-sharing giant has signed a deal with Yellow Cab SF and Flywheel, the company that operates an Uber-like app used by taxi drivers across businesses across the city. The deal will allow 1,075 taxi drivers in the region to access Uber customers in the coming months. Uber recently struck a similar deal in New York, allowing residents of the city to call any of its 14,000 taxi drivers through the app.
The companies were able to finalize the deal as the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors just voted to allow taxis to accept fixed upfront fares for rides hailed through a third-party app. . Customers can expect to pay UberX fares, which are calculated based on travel time and distance in addition to a base fare, for taxi rides. The one-year pilot project for the agreement will begin on August 5.
Uber fares are generally lower than metered fares, although they may be higher during peak periods. Kate Toran, SFMTA’s Director of Taxis, told the board meeting that Uber and Lyft fares were about 80-85% of metered fares. Although drivers may earn less than usual for Uber rides, participation is completely optional. They can accept Uber rides whenever they want, and there are no consequences for refusing them.
Flywheel and Yellow believe the deal would benefit drivers, who could accept Uber rides to fill gaps during off-hours. “[H]having income versus no income is a much better situation at the end of the day, even if it is lower than the taxi fare,” said Yellow Cab CEO Chris Sweis. Still, not all SF taxi drivers are thrilled with the development. San Francisco Taxi Alliance board member Mark Gruberg expressed concern that regular taxi customers are being ignored during Uber’s peak times. ABC7News that making less money from Uber rides would mean he would have a harder time paying off the debts he incurred to pay for his medallion, which cost $250,000.
If Uber succeeds, however, there won’t be any taxis left that aren’t part of its network. Uber executive Andrew Macdonald recently said in an investor presentation (PDF) that the company aims to have all taxis on Uber by 2025. This would not only increase its supply of drivers, but could also unlock new markets where people don’t have their own cars to use for service.