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Opinion

Why Uber Is The Best Thing For Black Cabs

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 15 months ago
Why Uber Is The Best Thing For Black Cabs
Photo by Matt Brown from the Londonist Flickr pool.

Chris Lockie's impassioned plea to use black cabs, drew equally impassioned responses from both sides of the argument. Here, Tabish Khan argues that Uber is improving the cab trade.

With the war of words between Uber and cabbies, plus TfL weighing into the mix, it's easy to forget what all this competition is about. You and I — the humble consumer. Competition is at its most effective when it delivers a better deal for consumers overall. And that's exactly what's happened.

Cast your mind back to a time pre-Uber and you will recall that credit cards were accepted in most places commission free, or maybe with a £5 minimum spend. But that was never the case with taxis, there was always a commission even if you forked out a £100 on a ride from the airport.

Cabbies could refuse to accept a fare if it wasn't in the direction they wanted to go or not profitable enough. Essentially they had all the power and us consumers pretty much had to accept it or take public transport.

What's changed?

Now we've got apps that can hail black cabs and handle payment via your registered debit or credit card. Plus all black cabs will need to accept card and contactless payments in the future. And cabbies are making an effort to prove they are better for the capital.

Competition has threatened their business and they are fighting back by innovating. It's exactly what competition in a market is supposed to deliver. And the overall winner is us — the people who use both. Rejoice.

We hope there's still more to come. Wouldn't it be great if we could rate black cab drivers like we do with Uber? Then those racist, sexist dinosaurs who give all the other decent black cab drivers a bad name would be forced to evolve or go extinct. I would have loved to have given a negative review to the cabbie who suggested we could solve all the world's problems if we 'drop a bomb on Islam'.

That's not to say all Uber drivers are saints, it's just there are bad apples in every car(t). It would be great to weed them out irrespective of who they drive for.

Private hire versus black cabs

Let's face it, they are both here to stay. Black cabs will never die out because they are loved by tourists and the wealthy. Just pop to Mayfair and see how many black cabs are on the streets.

And Uber isn't just taking business off cabbies. People who used to return home from a night out on the last tube or via night bus, are now opting for a private hire cab. It's cheap enough to meet the affordability test where a black cab may not have been. Plus you can summon them to areas in zones 2 and 3 where it would be impossible to hail a cab in the street.

The idea that Uber will monopolise the market and then raise their prices is ludicrous. If they did, someone else will come along with cheaper prices and we'll switch to them like the mercenaries we are.

The most important thing is to level the playing field in terms of taxation and background checks. Unfortunately the ideas that have come forth so far are a mix of the sensible and some which result in worse customer service. Making someone wait five minutes even though the taxi is around the corner is lunacy. Any changes should meet the two tests of ensuring all taxi operators are on an equal footing and that customers benefit.

Competition is great. We're the ultimate winners.

Last Updated 12 February 2016

Sam

A few points:
- The commission that gets charged in cabs go to the company providing the credit card facilities,not the drivers.
- Cabbies can't refuse a street hail just because it doesn't suit them,if they do please report them(it'll help the more honest cabbies)
-Hailo & possibly Gett where both around before Uber(Customers can definitely rate cabbies on Gett)
-Cabs are cheaper than Addison Lee(a company who pays their taxes and abides by the rules),all the hotels & bars in London,the Heathrow Express if 2 or more are travelling & cheaper than Uber when they are surge pricing.
- Ubers prices will have to go up when the company has to guarantee their drivers are insured & the drivers can no longer be paid in foreign bank accounts.

Greg Tingey

"An unlicensed cab (Uber) is just a strangers car ......."
Also, Black Cabs & mini-cabs have fixed tariffs.
Uber can charge you A LOT MORE it there is (supposedly) a big demand.
It's also a race-to-the-bottom for wages. - How nice!

Josef Mills

More rubbish written by the uneducated, and he has cajonas to call himself a Londoner? I don't think so. Hailo had a ratings system long before Uber, They used to rate customers as well! Why do you believe that the general public are all liberal loving lefties and cab driver are all racists? Do you know how much shite I have had to listen too from the general public after twenty two years driving a cab?, At least you have a choice of getting out the cab, the taxi driver doesn't! Sitting there stinking of booze and puke telling us your life stories, like we don't have enough problems of our own, boasting of your wealth, or the illicit affair your having, or what a c*nt your boss is, like I give a shit, but I pretend I do. Do you think the public are not racists, and they never make racist comments in the back of the cab? Well three of my close friends are Pakistani Black cab drivers, and they will verify the level of racist abuse thrown at them, by the public. And another two friends are West Indian drivers taxi driver, they don't get a lot of trouble because they are huge, but I ask you are they racist dinosaurs as well! Here is a typical situation, five people (Uber can only take four) hail a London cab in Soho. they say to the driver "we have five destinations. Putney, Deptford, Liverpool Street, Hammersmith, and Bayswater, in which order shall we go?" Within ten seconds the cab driver will give him and an answer, and he would mention that it would be better to take two Taxi's. Uber driver would not have a clue, the taxi driver would be at the first destination whilst the Uber driver is still working the route out with a GPS and Sextant, they would probably go over Tower bridge when it is open, because the GPS told them to do it. And what about making Uber car accessible for wheelchair access as well? Call your self a journalist? That's like an Uber driver claiming to be a London Taxi driver?

Paul

Well done Tabish, you are speaking for all of us who regularly use Uber and are perplexed by those trying to bully us into paying more for an alternative offer. I think the market is big enough for both grades of service in London, paying less for a driver using satnav and paying a premium for The Knowledge and cabbie anecdotes. Let's let the customer decide rather than the suppliers dictating the solution, the market will reward those who get it right and prepare us for Apple & Goggle launching driverless cars!

Andy

One of the worst articles I've read on the Londonist. Not a single if his arguments were correct. Another journalist paid by Uber to promote them possibly. Taxis cannot turn down fares, taxis have had apps for as long as Uber has been around. What they don't have is billions of pounds to spent advertising on every web page. Most cabs do take credit cards.
Total nonsense of an article.

hostile_17

A much more reasoned article than the anti-Uber one.

Barry Garfield

Uber private hire , like all private hire are NOT taxis, why can't the media at least get that right

Kay

Nicely said. Some replies here clearly either missed the point or didn't read the piece till the end. Lyft is coming to the capital soon and a whole barrage of other startups who offer similar services will continue to disrupt a certain market. But ultimately, you survive because you offer a service and people want it.

Some people used a black cab a handful of times in their lives, but when Uber came they became regulars. It filled a certain gap for them that cabbies didn't. Standing in the cold and the rain waiting for a cab to pick you up isnt always convenient. Alternatively, getting stuck in the worst of London traffic jams because your Uber driver has no clue how to navigate the capital without a GPS isn't cool either. But you have a choice and you pick what suits you when you need it.

You understand the cabbies frustration, they have to study the knowledge and really earn their status. But then again Uber has always been around ... in the form of a minicab that is. This is what Uber is, a minicab on demand. Shame tfl doesn't see it that way.

Dobri

WOW! Pretty heated discussion.