Opinion

Why You Should Take A Black Cab, Not An Uber

Chris Lockie
By Chris Lockie Last edited 13 months ago

Looks like this article is a bit old. Be aware that information may have changed since it was published.

Why You Should Take A Black Cab, Not An Uber
Photo by Luke Agbaimoni from the Londonist Flickr pool

We're not imbecilic enough to think we can prevent a single person from adopting this logic as their own: traditional taxis are expensive; public transport is the preserve of lunatics and the damned; cheap taxis would be brilliant; Uber offer cheap taxis; there are considerable downsides to Uber; they’re cheap, so sod it.

Why would anyone pay more for something than the minimum they’re allowed to? It’s a question that goes to the heart of who we are as ‘consumers’. Do you see the inherent value in something and believe you should pay what an item or service is worth? You’re probably at least vaguely socialist, even if the word conjures up images of bearded men printing pamphlets nobody will read. Or do you think the value of an item or service is not somehow built within it but decided by ‘the market’? You probably have a giant portrait of Margaret Thatcher in your house, and it's a long time since that was OK.

Uber’s offering is straightforward: use a phone app to find a car registered with their service in your vicinity, and that car will take you where you want to go, for cheaper than a cab you’d hail on the street. You’ll need to know where you’re going, because chances are the Uber driver won’t given he only started doing this last week, though thanks to the London Assembly Conservatives for suggesting levelling the playing field by putting an end to the Knowledge. How much an Uber will cost you involves some mysterious combination of speed, distance, availability of cars in the area, whether it’s raining or Pancake Day and how successful the CEO was at the roulette table the previous night.

Your driver will have been through rigorous background checks, to make sure he hasn’t complained to any previous employers about working conditions or attempted to join a union. He could be a champion fiend in other ways of course, the criminal background checks are questionable at best, but what’s a cab ride without an edge to it? Boring, and who needs that at the end of a great night out with the girls?

And it’s cheap.

A black cab, however, is a relic. The driver will try and talk football to you all the way, he’ll go all round the houses to charge you more and you can’t even get one with your phone when you need one. Only of course there’s an app for that now too, most drivers have no interest in talking to you as you dribble and fart drunkenly on their back seat and, given they actually know the streets of the city thanks to the Knowledge the Tories hate so much, they could actually be getting you where you need to be quicker than if you had to Google Map it for some dickhead whose geographic knowledge is inextricably linked to the satnav he can’t stop talking at him in Mandarin. It'll soon be moot anyway since the School of Knowledge is closing, literally and metaphorically.

Black cab drivers are self-employed and pay taxes like any other small business, and not many of them make such fabulous wealth from their job that it’s clear they could easily live off lower fares (though Uber fans will claim black cab drivers are minted to a man). Uber also pay taxes, “in full, in all jurisdictions they are due” as they no doubt put it when accused of being dodgy bastards (£22,134 on a £866,000 profit, though they argue it’s because of losses the previous year). They legally transfer profits to a Dutch sister company. Nice, thanks. George Osborne chuckles paternally at your mastery of international fiscal affairs.

Photo by Terry Moran from the Londonist Flickr pool

But it’s cheap. Though not cheap enough it turns out, given people are now looking for yet more money off their journeys by sharing their Ubers with Christ knows who. If you have no concerns about the safety of 'UberPool', we would recommend you read this. And then think of the money you'll save, obviously.

Think about the last time you did whatever job it is you do. Think about the effort you put into each task, from replying to emails to knocking up slidefuls of presentations, taking part in crucial meetings and generally making a good employee of yourself, and money for someone else.

Now, just for a moment, be honest with yourself. Do you think someone could have done all those things as well as you? Doesn’t matter who, just anyone given the training you’ve had. We all know we’re replaceable, that’s how they terrify us into behaving ourselves, so there must be people out there who could do your job as well as you. What if they offered to do it for less money than your company pays you? Would you say it was fair for your employer to replace you with the cheaper model?

What if they weren’t quite as good as you, but capable enough to get most of the job done to a satisfactory standard? Still fair enough? Because if at any point you’ve felt that little spinal shiver suggesting you’re one management shrug away from destitution, it might be worth thinking twice before firing up that app in an effort to save yourself £6 for a journey from Hammersmith to Harrow that might leave you with a sore arse.

Photo by ashraf mahmood from the Londonist Flickr pool

Or maybe we just leave everything to ‘the market’. Sorry cabbies, it’s just the way the game works — if you can’t take the pressure of your job, ferrying ungrateful bastards around a city that seems to hate you, Iain Duncan Smith is peddling job advice at food banks now. You can use your comprehensive knowledge of the streets to find the busiest and most lucrative spot for your partner to attract businessmen to suck off to pay the kids’ school dinner fees. And though you’ve put your entire adult life into being a cab driver and dealing with all the shit people throw at you, ‘the market’ has decided punters deserve a simpler, more convenient service, so thanks for everything and the current is generally fiercest around Rotherhithe this time of year.

You don't know Londonist very well if you think we don't anticipate the howls of anger that will greet such a viewpoint. People will invoke Amazon to defend the tax point, because Amazon is the new Santa. They'll claim cabbies earn a fortune, which is bollocks. These people will yell at us for being against progress, but what we're against is blindly stumbling towards a worse London than we have now, for no other reason than we might be able to save a few bob.

Black cabs are fighting back, but without the support of the people of this city we are going to lose a fine service that is doing everything it can to keep up with the terrifying march of modernity. Give black cabs time to adjust to the Age of Cheap, and eventually you'll come to appreciate their solid, dependable service.

If you don't, black cabs will die, an honest occupation will go with it, Uber will put their prices up immediately, and the moment driverless cars become a reality they’ll be all over it like Cameron on swine (because if you think Uber cares about their drivers, you're way off). And when your boss calls you into his office and tells you you’re being replaced by Sergei, who can’t speak a bean of English but by Christ can he Powerpoint, spare us the whimpers that your skill and experience make you worth that extra couple of quid, because you brought this on yourself with that little app you love so much.

Still, it’s cheap, right?

Got opinions about taxis? Transport for London is consulting on private hire vehicle regulations until 23 December.

Last Updated 02 September 2016

ArfurTowcrate

I'm confused. Where are these lovely black cab drivers to be found? You know, the right-wing Islamophobes who wish death on people who ride bicycles, only accept cash (presumably to make it easier to pay their taxes), adhere slavishly to the anachronistic protectionism that is "the Knowledge", never break the speed limit or run a red light and definitely don't take the diesel particulate filters out of their engines or the piss out of the public.

Moizer

First of all get your facts right. London Conservatives did NOT suggest putting an end to The Knowledge but reducing the years of study.

Big difference!

acquiescent

It's not black-cab drivers who should feel threatened by Uber, but minicabs.

I live in a part of SE1 where, despite being in Zone 1 and just outside the CC zone, you can't just go out onto the street and expect to hail a cab, unless you're prepared to wait a very long time; black cabs are few and far between. (And actually, outside the West End, City and plusher parts of inner West and South-West London, that probably applies to most of London.) So black cabs are not something I would generally use for any journey that starts from home, even if I wanted to - whereas I can order a minicab and it picks me up from my door; therefore that's who Uber is competing against.

What makes Uber attractive to me is that the app itself is well-designed, easy to use, and - this is the best thing of all - no money changes hands at the end of the journey. I can't emphasise enough just how appealing is that last aspect.

Black cabs do themselves no favours when the majority are still (in 2015!) cash-only, and the few that take card charge an extra fee of £2.50 to do so (at least, in my experience a couple of years ago). I'm not further endeared to them by other, previous experiences, often when the driver wants to chat when I'm not in the mood for it, or when a driver refuses to take me for no apparent reason (wasn't drunk, wasn't dressed as a giant rabbit, didn't even get round to stating my destination), or when, as a cyclist - a well-behaved one who is considerate of other road users and stops at red lights etc. - I get subjected to aggressive driving by black-cab drivers.

That having been said, Uber's tax avoidance is simply not on, and quite off-putting to me - so I'll have a look for other apps that perhaps use minicab firms and work in a similar way.

Gamblingaddict

"And when your boss calls you into his office and tells you you’re being replaced by Sergei, who can’t speak a bean of English but by Christ can he Powerpoint, spare us the whimpers that your skill and experience make you worth that extra couple of quid, because you brought this on yourself with that little app you love so much."

Fatuous article with some casual racism thrown in at the end. Londonist should be ashamed.

Dave Greenwood

Spot on. Uber is another enabler of the "race to the bottom" that blights our lives. A pox on them.

EA

Fantastic article. God bless the world famous knowledge of London. It has beaten the sat nav every time it has been tested. But a couple of facts: Londons largest knowledge school has not shut down. The lease came to an end and the landlord is turning it in to flats. Knowledge point will run from the LTC on Brewery Rd next year. The London taxi trade is not dying. 70m journeys taken each year, compared to 20m uber journeys in 5 years. And to those who call the knowledge protectionism, a closed shop etc etc, note that the closed shop is open to all regardless of race religion colour creed sexual orientation - just as long as you have a clean criminal record and no medical issues that make you a danger on the road. Long live the worlds finest taxi trade.

Geoff Marshall

I was really late the other day, so i thought "Sod it, i'll splash out", and saw a black cab coming, and felt good that i wasn't just resulting to using Uber. When i told the driver where i wanted to go, he looked at me like i was stupid as said "But that's in the other direction" and motioned at all the traffic around us somehow trying to say that it would be a problem for him to turn around. So he refused my fare.

Less than ten minutes later I was in an Uber instead having requested one no problem, and had a nice chat to the driver on the way too. So guess what I'm going to do next time?

Black Cab drivers - try accepting fares before complaining that Uber are stealing your business.

TheBoyPhelan

"do you think the value of an item or service is not somehow built within it"

Well, it isn't. Richard Whately “…pearls are not valuable because men have dived for them, but men dive for them because they are valuable.”

Charlotte

Could the Londonist please re-post this piece without all the bizarre aggression, machismo and sexism that makes it frankly baffling as an article? I'm all willing to change my stance on Uber and that, if someone just puts the argument to me in a way I can actually understand and that isn't littered with badly worded, sarky remarks. It's like this post was written by Rick from the Young Ones.

Kittyl

So ironic that right below this article there is an Uber ad displaying on my phone. Are Uber paying you to advertise for them, Londonist?

cjcjc

There might just be a sensible point lurking somewhere under the adolescent abuse, especially when it comes to "the knowledge".
No, I am not a socialist; not even vaguely. Nor are the vast majority of cabbies I suspect.
However Uber will certainly have done its job if it brings black cabs into the 21st century wrt technology and service.

Spielo

I don't use taxis of any sort because we live in a city with top notch public transport. People in cars clogging up the streets are for the most part doing it out of selfishness and self-importance.

The Black cabs vs Uber argument is pointless because all of those drivers will be replaced with robots within a few years (it will happen MUCH faster than you think). What I care about is the fact that London's air isn't safe to breathe, and it's motor traffic's fault.

Rikard Ottosson

This was a perfect leftist rant. You even got the xenophobia at the end! Well, tough. Feckless English men will starve as less lazy immigrants do what you can't be bothered to do, and do so well enough that nobody will want to pay a premium for domestic service wirh a side of jingoistic social commentary.

Nick

Yawn. Uber is still cheaper so still wins. Argue all you want, more money in my pocket = happier me.

I once got a black cab home from work. It cost me £29 and some pennies (never again). The same trip costs between £10-£15 with a cab, and averages around £7-£9 with an uber.

Wouter Visser

I am using Uber not just because it's cheaper but since I was not able to pay by card in most black cabs. One time they did take card payment but charged me for it. The few times a cab driver was rude to me it was a black cab. I love Uber, their app, their price model and the drivers are normally very friendly. Black cabs have never changed their service because they didn't feel the need as they were the only taxis anyway. Now they finally get some competition and they think to themselves "Oh, how can I make my service more attractive". Whereas Uber, or the management if you will, have approached the market thinking like a customer.

mistermelly

I'm all for supporting black cab drivers but this article is so wishy washy and badly written it doesn't even explain why the black cab drivers deserve the support

Roberto

Black cabs should join the Uber platform so there will be fair fees for consumers and London will keep the iconic cab

ShiftFunction

Convince me to ditch Uber by insulting me? What "an ungrateful bastard" I must be. #Logic

Mark

What a terrible (clickbait?) article. Let me get this right - your main thesis is: it's not fair to lose your job if someone comes up with a better, cheaper way to do your job and you fail to up your game? Ridiculous.

I use cabs 4-5 times a week. Not because of any sense of 'fairness', but because it's generally the most convenient and quickest way around.

Some cabbies are great, but cabbies need to recognise that there are a LOT of bad apples. Cabbies need to accept that they provide a premium-priced service, and need to provide a better service than they do today to match the price - take credit cards without 10% fee, don't fob people off if you don't like their destination, and don't spend the entire journey whingeing about Uber / cyclists / TfL / immigrants. It's rare that I get home without at least one whinge from the driver.

Mark Stradling

I'm no more inclined to take any type of cab but if the existence of Uber stops black cab drivers, when you flag them down in the street, going "na mate, not going that way". Like they're a fucking bus, I'll be eternally grateful

Paul JaYmes

I think there are some good points somewhere in this, but it's a pretty ranty article that could do with having a few hundred unnecessary words snipped out of it, and at least some lip service to balance - yeah, you remember that old fashioned idea that good journalists cover multiple viewpoints?
Some specifics that aren't covered -
- In London, Uber is just a minicab firm with a fancy app. It doesn't really provide a materially different service to Addison Lee, for example. Having this debate without discussing why Uber might or might not be different to other minicab firms is ignoring most of the detail.
- The writer has clearly never used Uber. It's not just a cost thing -
UberExec is about the same price as a black cab and UberLux is more.
Both are popular.
- Uber comes with built-in SatNav, it routes you to your destination and shows you where you're going on a map. It makes "The Knowledge" rather less of a selling point. Yes of course we all pine for the world where people knew things by heart and did long division. But now we have wikipedia and calculators. And SatNav. We need to get over it and move on.
- Your choice of cab isn't going to change the world, or even your future employment prospects. It really isn't, and this is such a non-sequitur, a naive allusion to "consumer power" that it's self-defeating. Leave this debate to "consumer power" and Uber will win.
- Back in 99 and 2000 many people took to the streets to protest (and in some cases riot) about globalisation. They were widely dismissed and portrayed as marginal elements. But most of what they were warning us about has come to pass. What's more it's now way past the point of no return; your job can get off-shored to somewhere cheaper, the likes of AirBnB and Uber are stripping traditional costs out of industries in the same way that Ryanair and Easyjet did with air travel 15 years ago.
- Black Cabs aren't all that. Really they're not.

As I say there are some good points buried in the article, and there are some real issues. But addressing them will take more than choosing a different cab. Try engaging with politics, for example.

Alistair Twiname

i wont hail a black cab, but that's because there wont be one to be had for love nor money. as far as i can tell if you aren't standing outside a park lane hotel, or a hedge fund's door in zone 0.5 then your odds of getting one are next to nothing. oh and try again at 11pm? you are having a laugh.

also want to get one form heathrow? even if you are just going 10 minutes down the road? that's £65 thanks.

Barry Ancharaz

Ok. I'll get a black cab. Wait, I live in Tottenham. There's no black cabs. I'll use uber. Suddenly I'm contributing to the demise of an age old con. They won't take me into town, but they want to be the only ones to take me out of town.

Scott

Oh good grief these arguments are getting tiresome. Firstly the writer of this article shot themselves in the foot in paragraph 3 with 'raining or Pancake Day and how successful the CEO was at the roulette table the previous night’. Basically that’s saying to the reader I don’t have a coherent argument so I’ll pad this with stupid jokes and hope that you notice the rest of it is garbage too.

Let’s clear one thing up. Uber is not cheaper. They’re just more clever at spreading the costs out of running a taxi service so they are able to pass those savings on to the consumer. Of course I’m not in a position to go down to the penny of running the businesses so it might be slightly less profitable running one than the other but allow me to explain.

I’ve been living in Crystal Palace for just over 12 months. I work in the City. A Black Taxi fair is £45 to £55. An Uber is about £18 t0 £25. I’ve had no less than 6 Black Taxis pull up to me in the city, Lights on, effectively offering to take my business, and refuse when they heard Crystal Palace. Now considering I now give the bulk of my business to Uber, 6 is quite a lot. I’ve asked a couple of black cabs why they would do this and they always start with ‘they shouldn’t they should take you if they’ve stopped’ and then they go on to say that it’s not that great a fare because they have to do a 40 min drive back into the city to get another fare normally.

Now an Uber driver will bring me out for about half price, but they’ve told me that normally when they tell the app, at my house in Crystal Palace, that they’ve dropped off their fare, another one in the are is available.

Now do the maths. Work out the time spent with a fare and how much those to services are changing… It’s about the same. The difference is Uber is clever enough to work out a way to keep a fare in a cab. Isn’t that after all what you should be paying for.

Now as to service, 9/10 I get great service from Uber. But then I could say that about Black Taxis. Yes there are black Taxis who give bad service. This is the case for every large organisation. The Uber drivers have always had Sat Nav’s and I’ve never had to tell one how to get to where I’m going. So again I this the article is completely false.

Also the number of Black taxis that I've gotten into that have broken Credit card machines far outweighs the number that have them working... really want to lean on this hard working tax paying citizens argument?

London is not a museum. We are not a set of shelves to hold up relics and let the world come and look at us. Update your business model to compete at giving the best consumer experience or shut up.

This isn’t a ma and pa kettle gift shop on the high street of a village town that we should all want to save. London Taxi’s and the organisations that support them are big powerful organisations. Stop moaning about someone doing something better than you and do better yourself.

Jim

Very poor article. Taxis were the preserve of those who could afford them. Uber is making more convenient travel available to all and is a shame to read someone is opposed to this. People have a choice now and that has to be a good thing, right? With the introduction of sat navs who needs the knowledge these days? I can see you are not a champion of ex offenders making a fresh start in life but your xenophobic comments belong in a bygone era much like your other views. Anyway I hope you have a White Christmas mate!

Scott

Oh and the 'And when your boss calls you into his office and tells you you’re being replaced by Sergei' at the end of the article what the hell does that even mean? That all uber drivers are foreigners stealing good honest hard working Taxi drivers jobs? That all Black cab drivers are English and we should protect them? Or that we should all be worried about PowerPoint artisans who speak in tongues because ultimaltey they will take over the world.

I’d say it means that like the rest of the article the writer knows the best he can do is clutch on to things like the closet racist in all of us in the hope to get us to follow his point.

I think the London’s would do well to get rid of Chris Lockie and get Sergei in.

Kabal

Maybe if black cab drivers didn't try to rip you off as often as possible, I'd use them. Like you said, taking you round the back roads to bump up the price, having the ability to use bus lanes, but choosing to sit in traffic, to once again bump up the price. I don't see how Uber becoming more popular than a black cab is a worse London. Black cabs have had their way for too long, now they're throwing their toys out the pram brcause there's a new service that's fairer to the customer. Wah f*cking wah, Uber is the future. Get used to it.

Deep

What a load of tosh.I am a Uber custoer not everyone is not rich enough to live in Zone 1 so not impressed with the Knowledge. Im someone sick of hearing, 1. I don't take cards 2. I ain't got change. 3. There's a card surcharge. 4. I'm not going that way. 5. Pay me to put your luggage in the car. From Heathrow, 6. that's not far enough. 7. That's two stops can't do that. All of which only apply if they stop for someone who isn't white in the first place. London Taxi's are the most expensive in the world and basically crap. They've have only their Luddite-selves to blame. I'd like a monopoloy too but I can't get one.

Colin Christopher Paul Smith

What a horribly written article.

For Londoners who have no choice but to pay extortionate rates for rent, public transport and nights out, is it any wonder they would welcome the option of 'saving a few bob' on their journey home.

Also, sitting in a black cab feels like you're in a moving waiting room. And if you're REALLY lucky, you can listen to the Driver mumbling profanities or casual racism via a crackly microphone and 3 inches of bulletproof glass. Give me the comfort of a real car and a Driver who appreciates my custom any day.

And if like you say, Uber run Black Cabs out of business and jack up their prices, then i'll welcome the next entrepreneur who ensures Uber meets the same fate.

Dean Hull

You sound like the greengrocers
and butchers in the late 80's !!! It's called PROGRESS !!! Thick cockney twats !!!

lee.provoost@gmail.com

Love cabbies but seriously ACCEPT DEBIT/CREDIT CARDS. Seriously, the main reason I'm looking for other options is because black cabs are refusing to accept cards.

You all accept cards? I delete my Uber app.

Richard

I wish Uber paid their taxes, but in general I've had better experiences with Uber.

Plus, every single Uber driver has been happy with their lot. Maybe they're tightly controlled and daren't speak the truth, but the 10 or so drivers I've spoken to seemed genuinely content with their 'employers'.

Womble

I stopped reading at "ungrateful bastards". No, I prefer to think of myself as a customer. Actually, this article made me not want to take black cabs ever again.

Seriously, though, while I sympathise with anyone faced with the very real threat of a competitor, this article won't convince me that the black cab industry is responding with anything other than fear with a side order of bitterness and resentment. I'm sorry to say that the knowledge has probably been made redundant by sat nav (contrary to what the article says I have always found they work just fine, even in London). Like I say, I sympathise with the cabbies, I really do, but I think it will take a bit more than this article to fight back against the changing world.......

Martin

Personally I wouldn't feel safe getting in a vehicle with someone who had worked an 86 hour week

Clovis

Absolutely brilliant article that hits the nail on the head. People will disagree of course, but only because they don't want to admit to themselves that they are selfish cheapskates, who have no problem paying £8 fro a glass of wine in a pub, but want to save a fiver on their chauffeur driven ride home.

Jr.

Nailed it!!!

hostile_17

Wow... where to even start with the problems with this 'article'.

"How much an Uber will cost you involves some mysterious combination of speed, distance, availability of cars in the area, whether it’s raining or Pancake Day and how successful the CEO was at the roulette table the previous night."

What is this drivel? But tackling the first bit... a service that charges you based upon distance and demand. Wow... so like planes, trains etc.?

"but what’s a cab ride without an edge to it? Boring, and who needs that at the end of a great night out with the girls?"

Your use of 'girls' there is clearly meant to indicate RAPE DANGER. But incidents with Uber drivers are miniscule, and do your search 'proper' cab drivers have assaulted people. The fact is though, with Uber your phone has a record of where you were, what car you got into and ratings from all previous passengers. You can also message someone your ETA etc. from the app. A black cab... could be anyone and no one even knows you got into one.

"A black cab, however, is a relic. The driver will try and talk football to you all the way, he’ll go all round the houses to charge you more and you can’t even get one with your phone when you need one. Only of course there’s an app for that now too, most drivers have no interest in talking to you as you dribble ..."

What utter NONSENSE! Do you even use Uber? They are humans like anyone else, had some lovely chats with my drivers. Why you think driving a black cab would suddenly give you extra social skills is beyond me.

"the Knowledge the Tories hate so much, they could actually be getting you where you need to be quicker than if you had to Google Map it"

The Knowledge is pointless. Antiquated nostalgia. It's like you buying an iPhone then being told you have to go on 5 thousand pound six month course to use it. It's not necessary in the days of GPS. That doesn't stop cabbies learning on the job about optimal routes, but the Knowledge is a costly exercise that ramps up the cost of them doing their job. That's where things like Uber are good as they disrupt and bring down the cost for everyone.

This really is an article full of ill thought out emotional nonsense... but history has shown time and time again that innovation brings about lower costs and yes often job losses too. But you can't keep the coal mines going and sending chimney sweeps up to clean them because... well, that's what those people have always done.

You'd be the type of person that was complaining about these new automated horseless carriages - and what will happen to all those horses! Black cabs need to INNOVATE - drop the knowledge, get their own official app - then it's a more level playing field. That's what innovation brings.

It will also provide robust defence and competition... because believe me, as much as I've defended Uber I don't think they're perfect.

Still, it's a good job your article is only concerned with "this Christmas", now that's over I'll stick with Uber.

Robert B

Once black cabs are extinct or at least relegated to 'theme park London' affordable only to rich tourists/toffs expect uber & the likes' fares to rise hugely.

Diane F.

So glad to read your great article. Uber is the darling of people wanting to appear hip. My daughter just had a terrible experience with her 1st and I hope last uber pool ride. It all sounded very reasonable, take an uber pool from UCLA to Union Station in LA, from there a train ride to our area. The uber driver picked her up with 2 other male students. One was to be dropped off at Dodger Stadium for a game. It took the driver well over an hour, he was checking his phone map all the way and seemed new to this route. Once they dropped of the student, his uber app screen went black. He ordered my daughter and other student out of the car in the now darkness in a crime-ridden area of LA. He claimed it was against Uber rules to let them stay. He didn't even offer to wait until they found another ride. Thankfully the other male student was a good guy. They got on their phones and finally got another ride, of course she had missed all the Friday evening trains to our area by then so had to divert to another area, 1 hour out of my way. Finally, after a train delay of 90 minutes, I picked her up. Wow, a 6 hour ordeal and much more expensive than if I would have driven up and back. We were charged extra for high demand time,etc. Ultimately, there is really no recourse if things go badly. I hope someone will challenge Uber's bogus assertion that they have "no liability or responsibility" as the contract is between the driver and rider. How convenient to take all the profits and avoid any potential responsibility financially and otherwise. People are so easily enamored of anything coming from their smart phone, especially young people. Not a safe choice. Yes, I know many times there is no problem, but IF there is you have nowhere to go!

MB

Chris, did you ever consider what impact online journalism is having on traditional printed media?

There are people who have spent their entire lives learning journalism, studying journalism in university, working their way up the ranks of traditional printed press, all for the opportunity to finally get to write their own stories! Then online journalism comes along, with all these young, wipper-snapper free-Lance journalists, and practically destroys the industry overnight! Printed media empires, that have been pillars of their community for generations are shut down, or forced to slash their headcount, just to compete with online news sources. These online sites have much lower overheads, don't have to pay any wages or benefits to their staff, who are all freelancars, and certainly don't bother investing in training or developing budding young journalist! Is it fair for a freelance journalist writing for an online journal to come along and destroy a centuries old industry, and all the careers and livelihoods it supported?

Paul

My recent experience of a black cab stank of cigarettes and the curmudgeonly driver spent the whole trip moaning about London. My main reason for using Uber now is not low price but the way black cabs drive aggressively against cyclists, shoot lights, try to dominate the road to make life hard for cyclists squatting at the ASL inside the bike box.

The writing is on the wall, it says: the days of black cab's reign are numbered and are being brought it to an end, cabs have been weighed on the scales and found wanting and the market is being divided and given out to greater competition.

I use Uber regularly and must admit I haven't had a bad experience yet, so I don't recognise these caricatures or anecdotes doing the rounds to diminish them.

Laurence Payne

If there was a compelling argument, you could have made it in one paragraph.

Stuartb

I'm generally a fan of black cabs despite not using them all that much (I don't live or work in London at the moment) - I'm a traditionalist and value what the tradition adds to London. I have also had mosly postive experiences with cabs. My last was in November when a closed road chucked us back into Oxford St hell. He trimmed the fare without my asking saying that it was not my fault that we'd got stuck in traffic.

On the other hand, the closed shop (not in any union sense) of the way cabs work has hurt their competiiveness. Maybe prices are fair to make a living - I haven't done the analysis, but they do rule out black cabs for most of my personal journeys. For business I'll take public transport when time permits even though my employer will pay for cabs. My job and the jobs of my colleagues is more likely to be threatened by being casual with costs than the reasons asserted by the article.

More than pricing however is the lack of competitiveness which has arisen in convenience. Black cabs were slow to embrace pre-booking and easy payment is still missing. The fact that this is now changing is because of competition from things like Uber. Black cabs have been stuck in the past. Uber on the other hand (by all accounts) needs to be put on a leash - competition is one thing; competition which plays fast and loose with people's employment conditions, taxation and customer safety is another and we can do without it in any sphere.

More efficient booking and routing can drive higher utilisation of cabs and increase the London area which they can viably serve which can allow fares to fall without hitting cabbie incomes. Cashless payment will make black cabs more accessible, but exorbitant credit card charges need to go. They are yet another indication that black cabs are relying on business users who don't pay the bills themselves and the more money than sense brigade. I'm no Thatcherite but it is the market that will drive these things and the article misses this point. A spacious air-conditioned black cab with a driver who knows his way around which is easy to book, affordable (at least when used by more than one person) and convenient payment; who would want to travel any other way?

Niles0609

Charged £15 for less than a 2 mile journey by black cab. Didn't take short cuts to avoid wait at traffic lights etc. 4 suitcases and no help from him, as there would have been years ago before there was any competition!

At least an 8 mile ride by Uber for £8 for four passengers. Photo of driver and car given. All vetted and starred and friendly.

I don't want to see black cabs go but they need to step up a gear. Stick to central London as they never like coming south of the river anyway!!

Red

That has to be the biggest pile of one sided shot I have ever had the misfortune to read. Boo fucking hoo for the black cab drivers...

It's not even about them being expensive, they offer zero customer service, and generally won't take you where you want to go cos "they are not going in that direction". Perhaps if they offered a level of customer service people would be inclined to pay that but extra. Black cab drivers are killing the trade, not UBER

Nick

This is the pseudo leftism I fucking hate. Sorry, daddy isn't paying my trustafarian lifestyle to do the "noble" thing and do the more expensive thing. Also, I'm sure you claim to be the defender of "the working man", but news flash arsehole, the working man isn't taking cabs or ubers or WHATEVER. The working man is taking public, which you so kindly shat on in the beginning of your "article". I'm tired of trying to shame people into "going local", when in reality, a lot of people can't afford "local" thing. ugh.

oscar

TomTom.

HateBlackCabs

So all the people that can afford a black cab get one, those that can't are forced to use the "preserve of lunatics", and then we complain about the gap between rich and poor. As a consumer I really couldn't care less whether my cab driver has completed the knowledge, I don't even care much for the background checks. That is my choice to make. And why is Sergei less deserving of a job than a native speaker?

Grant

People need to see the bigger picture here. Yes uber is cheaper, unless there is a surge price.

I'm a black cab driver, the other night i picked up in islington and estimated a price for a punter, angel to wimbledon, £40 on rate 3. The customer was shocked as this was cheaper than uber. When we got to the destination it was £40 on the nose. Uber had a surge price of x2.

There are reasons we seem expensive,
1) the amount of traffic boris has added to london really hasn't helped our case.
2) day time drivers on rate 1 are actually quiet cheap, especially if you have 5 people in the taxi splitting the cost (cheaper than the tube).
3) the cabs cost 45k to buy, and are only valid for 15yrs then are pretty much worthless. 3k per yr, plus insurance 3k per yr, licensing and all the other costs (i spent lots of time on the side of the road this yr out of work because of the unreliable taxi's we are forced to use. Prob 10k a year on expenses.
4) you are paying a driver who basiccally done one of the most time consuming, mentally demoralising degrees the world knows.
5) most people wants taxi's in rush hr (now cabbies cant make a living based only on rush hour).
6) the most expensive times to hire a cab are hours that shorten cab drivers lives (late night shift work) and upset their social life.

The knowledge is a test of stamina, a real hard process that tests your personality, your abilty to learn and to know london inside out, without a map or satnav to hand. It is a test of time with verbal examinations, that seem impossible to the candidate.

I'm sure uber is getting more expensive too with every passing year.
Why do we need to bow down to this major american firm.
Is it because more people can be classed as off the unemployment statistics through 0 hr contracts.
Is it because the ceo of uk operations is tightly connected to david cameron.

If you or i came up with a business plan for an app that runs just as uber does, I personally think it would have been scrapped by the government to preseve our heritage. As its a big American firm (backed by major players), it is not a problem.

Uber will become more expensive.

The black cab trade in london really is under threat.

I have to be honest, there is a place for uber in the market, but they have to be restricted. Black taxi's have been restricted to around 30-40,000 (estimate)drivers so there is enough work, that they can make a living.

Uber have nearly exceeded that in 2yrs on londons roads with unrestricted numbers. If they were restricted to 20k drivers there would be enough work for everyone.

There are also drivers out there looking for uber users who are not licensed. I have seen them trying to pick up customers that have hailed me, as the driver in front has not seen me behind. It is worrying, but people are welcome to take their own risks.

I really hope we save the black taxi's. If not, uber will dominate the market and charge what they like.

You can get in my cab, fall asleep and trust i have gone the best way, and got you home safe. We may seem miserable, because we don't talk to you, maybe because we get treated like second class citizens by up to 20 customers a day. But we are normally happy to help and have a chat. My experience now tells me its better to let the customer strike up conversation. That may make me seem miserable, but i'm not. You may think we are miserable at night. Just think how much you dislike that drunk on the train home, then put that person, or lots of them people in your cab all night, with the thought that they could maybe be sick and end your nights work, or even try not paying.

Last point, people complain about how much it costs to get home in a black cab (so expensive in london). However they don't mind paying £10-£15 a drink in a london club, or £30 for a steak in a London restaurant. Its london people.

Save our black cabs

George

When are taxi drivers going to grow up. I was a private hire driver 28 years ago and they constantly complained then. Uber is a brand.....A brand that's working for the company just like those other penny tax paying companies. I read on social media
About how wrong uber drivers and private hire driver's are. Then you read about black cabs picking up outside area's they unlicensed for. Cars parking in taxi ranks but sorry guys taxis park in loading bays and tell you you'll just have to wait until the rank go's down. I only drove for 3 years but in that tell quite a few driver's left to drive black cabs. Black cabs do sit the knowledge but seen a few with sat nav in the cab!
Instead of moaning about it change your image smarten yourself's up and get yourself a brand that sells. Give customers a reason to want to use a black cabs instead of private cars.If you put as much energy into sorting yourselves as you do moaning you may get somewhere. Let's face it we all know Uber isn't going to go away.

lisa B

Yes, but black taxi drivers don't stop for black people. So, Uber works for me and gets my weekly business. Karma

lisa B

I am well dressed woman, who dines and lives in central London. I never seem to get a black taxi to stop for me. I even have to walk to points like Train stations and sainsburys; it is very embarrassing. My partner, who is white flagged a taxi, upon leaving a theatre in central London and as I walked closer, the driver then drove off. Luckily an asian looking taxi driver was right behind and took the business. The irony was, we were right behind the taxi and I am managed to look and see no clients in his taxi. He just lost himself twenty county at 24.00pm hours.

So, the best way to teach these racist, discriminatory taxi drivers lesson with through their pocket books. The moment I arrived at the hotel. I logged on and created an uber account. TAKE THAT!

Carol Ann Pardini

I used an Uber taxi in London on 7th April from 80 Farringdon street to Wrights Lane, i was on holiday and this taxi was called from us from the restaurant we were having lunch at. \unfortunately we paid by credit card and have returned home to find out that our card was cloned and has been used for over 330 pounds by the driver. would never use them again.

justsaying

"...to save £6 on a journey from Hammersmith to Harrow that might leave you with a sore arse."

Actually, a black cab would be £44.27, compared with £25 for uber. So that's a £19.27 premium, or about 77%. Which just shows that the black cabs are simply way off on their price point - you can't compete when you are so much more expensive.

And I've never had a sore arse from an uber ride, but plenty from uncomfortable black cabs.

Sources:

https://www.taxifarefinder.com...

https://www.uber.com/fare-esti...

Disgusted

This is one of the worst articles I have ever read. The author should be ashamed as well as the Londonist for publishing this garbage. Not only is your argument completely one-sided but your claims about uber are unfounded and you offer no support for these claims other than your obviously biased opinion. And while everyone is entitled to their opinion, the racism tossed in throughout the article is absolutely disgusting. Not sure why it's necessary to mention a gps giving directions in Mandarin and the belief that an immigrant who "doesn't speak a bean of English" will one day come to take your job is a classic racist's fear. Seems like you have less of a problem with uber and more of a problem with your driving not being white.

PJ

Having taken black cabs for the last 20 years in London, I can honestly say Uber and Addy Lee are far more pleasant services. Their drivers are always very nice, they always pick me up, they have always got me to my destination efficiently and always accept cards. Black cabs on the other hand rarely accept cards, and when they do have the card machine in their cabs, it's always broken. Many black cab drivers have also refused to accept my destination as it's not in the direction they're going in. I fear that the black cab business has waited too long to modernise and now they will be left behind. Only tourists will use black cabs in the future with Londoners choosing services such as Addy Lee or Uber which can be relied on to pick them up and accept payment methods more suited to the modern Londoner.

Thomas Harris

I love London but I think this article is all kinds of wrong. Previous to Uber, I never used a black cab. Why? It was too expensive then. It's still too expensive now. Maybe you can afford it, have a job that lets you spend that kind of money to get back to the station, but I can't. Uber has a price point that makes it just about reasonable for me to treat myself to a ride to the terminus without taking a bus or the tube. Perhaps instead of accusing me of paying too little, you can instead whine about everyone else being paid too little.

Anupam Agnihotri

The arguments are many but now for over 18 months I have been using uber in London and have not faced any issues
1. Yes the driver does not have knowledge of the route but that is why these days we have Sat Nav which shows the route - not just to them but to us too. And it even shows how long the journey will take. And I can even share my ETA and route with the friend who is waiting for me!
2. Yes, I am not sure how the fare is calculated but it is always cheaper than black cab!
3. And I can get it without standing by the side of the road and hoping for one come by
4. And I have never been told by an uber driver that he will only take cash
5. I can get one for my mom and track when she gets home and not have to worry about how she will pay or how much.
6. I can even get one in the industrial park in Syon Lane in 3 mins (just an example)

You can always look at Black Cab as a premium service (knowledge and all that) and hence it higher cost. But if people don't want them premium service the you have the wrong product.

Fighting or bad mouthing innovation won't help - if black cabs really want to compete then instead of complaining about uber, offer something that uber doesn't (and people want)

Michael Westlake

It's a very common experience as a black male to have black taxi's blatantly drive past you the whole night so I've no sympathy for the business they have lost whatsoever.

Steve

Black Cab drivers are paying for their own rude, egotistical and self-righteous ways. There are too many instances for me to recall where i've flagged down a black cab, only to hear that Highbury "is not in the right direction" or "too far". They over charge, constantly refuse fares, never turn up and are impossible to flag down late at night. They are virtually unmoderated, have no direct feedback mechanism and are a relic. Oh, and the knowledge - I've got that in my pocket on my phone.

Dave Fowler

I for one would pick uber over a black cab any day....

Both parties have full details of each other and can check before getting in the car that they are the same person that appears on the app.

Drivers and passengers are rated and it works extremely well.

All uber drivers I've encountered have been polite and over the top with service as they want high ratings

When a driver has gone the wrong way I have written to uber and they have recalculated the fare and refunded me the difference.

I travel a lot and uber is available in almost all the cities I go to.

Get with the times, there's a reason nobody makes typewriters anymore, there's no need for them, same with black cabs.

niico100

Public transport in London is great, firstly - taxis are rarely required, often take longer and cost a fortune (the preserve of the better off). With the advent of GPS The Knowledge is also almost totally redundant.

Uber is just a better product than black or regular taxis. Better products that serve people win in the market place because *people want them*. I can see where my taxis is, order it without moving from where I am, know how long it will take, get out without paying, can see all previous journeys in the app.

The future looks like Uber, it's what people want - this is the wonderful thing about capitalism, why free market capitalism is probably man's most important invention - and why people with a protectionist communist bent like you, don't really matter.

The market - the people - decide what is successful - not people sitting in Ivory Towers. It's surprising how few people understand why protectionism is bad - why "protecting jobs" is bad (if that's you - look up the luddites). If the luddites had had their way we'd still be making our clothing on hand looms and paying £100 for a t-shirt. This is how progress happens, this is how humanity wins; and your lack of basic knowledge of this is alarming. (unless, you know, this is click bait - which is likely).

Work, and the world, are changing fast; deal with it.

robert hingston

I'm not convinced ... I will use Uber .. The black is finished

Andromeda

I'm going to London in a couple of weeks. I've looked at all the options, really went too far and got stupid paper 7 day Travelcards... don't ever do that fyi, get an Oyster Cards, that was daft. I'll probably use it a couple of times at the most and no refunds, go figure. Anyway, if a Black Cab happens to be spot on available, I'll take one here or there, but if it looks like the my choice will be signally someone via an App that's what I'll go for. I like Black Cabs, the cars themselves are well designed, especially if you are wearing big skirts or need room for shopping bags. The more I looked into Public Transportation, the Tube, the Buses, the more difficult the processed seemed for someone not going to the same place every single day like someone who'd work in Central London. Having lived in San Francisco I know that once you have a route figured out for your commute its pretty easy but if you do something off routine it gets confusing, plus I find comments about delays on the Tube and Buses which means who knows what one would face trying to figure it all out. I thought about finding someway to make my Travel Cards in someway pay but my real mistake was in not realizing by buying TWO cards essentially I covered the cost of taxis because you only pay a ride with the taxi it doesn't matter that there are two of you. DAmn.

Cathy

As far as I am concerned, black cab drivers have only themselves to blame for the reason I am now using Uber.
I live in Central London and can afford to get black cabs for short journeys. But I am completely fed up with black cab drivers spending my entire journey moaning about uber. And then dropping me off somewhere that suits them rather than me. All the uber drivers I have had - without exception so far - have been polite, haven't moaned about where I wanted to go, didn't need a tip ( of course, that's part of the deal), took me exactly where I wanted to go, and also they pay their taxes. The law has changed now, so black cabs have to have card machines but how many times have you sat in a cab with a machine taped up but clearly lit up underneath? Black cab got paid cash and had a monopoly for too long. And instead of moaning about the competition to the punters they do have now, they should be trying to up their game, reduce their ridiculously high prices, provide a really high service.
Until then, they've lost me and many more customers I'm afraid.
At least uber drivers don't spend the entire journey fing and blinding about uber drivers!

Andrew

I started using these apps recently. I would have used MyTaxi but I'm not going to pay £350 when Uber quoted me £50 for the same journey. I like competition, it gives us londoners who are strugglinh affordable options. Uber is cheaper and also faster. What is MyTaxi USP 'tradition' 'friendly banter' 'their drivers obsolete skill set'?

Steve Pilkington

I got an UBER from north London to Heathrow on my outward journey. It cost £61. On returning, I jumped in a black cab, thinking, 'it can't be that much more expensive'. Boy was I wrong. £155. More than two and a half times the price.

If that's what it is, then fine. But I won't be getting one again unless there's absolutely no other choice.

Bob Giddy

Black cabs are an institution that must be not be allowed to die as a result of unfair competition. The vehicles (black-cabs) are highly regulated and subject to frequent, random checks for both maintenance and cleanliness; this is NOT applied to Uber's vehicles. Also the drivers are certified and regulated by an independent body. I use black cabs in London and the overwhelming standard of service has been good. In an industry of this size there will always be the occasional rogue but this should not be used as the overall benchmark.

Another and very important economic and social consideration is that the black cab is manufactured in Britain. In my view all UK-wide cabs should be based on this classic design, easy access for people and luggage and with the new hybrid version being tested all cabs could soon be virtually pollution free. Government legislation should be introduced to support UK industry and mobilise the iconic value and brand of the black cab. (Incidentally this also applied to double-decker buses).

Peter Saunders

anyone can take a black cab if they wish. Uber represents healthy competition. I use Uber to send relatives, patients or others on a safer, registered journey. The cabbie missed a head-start, a bit like Kodak did with digital cameras. They were ahead of the game, but new technology allowed consumers a different choice. The black taxi app was in no way competitively priced, but then it seems a campaign was waged against Uber, instead of black cabs adopting a better app.

raul miranda

Not having this at all. Getting in a tracked Uber is worse than a random cab that is not tracked? Also, "using UberPool with God knows who?". I take it you know everyone on your train then? Or bus? Alarmist, nothing more. Also, the knowledge doesn't compare with live traffic updates. Soz.