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Readers Prefer Public Transit Over Car Sharing & Taxicabs

May 14, 2014 Car Sharing, Featured, Public Transit 12 Comments
Ford Transit Connect Taxi
Ford Transit Connect Taxi at the 2011 St. Louis Auto Show

In the poll last week I was trying to see if there was a preference among readers for an app-based service (CARmil, Lyft, Uber, etc) vs local taxicab. Just before posting the poll I changed the options, adding public transit to the mix. I very quickly regretted the change but it was too late.

Q: Next time you need to get from A to B (not in your own car), which type of service would you use?

  1. Public transit 42 [56%]
  2. App-based service (CARmil, Lyft, Uber, etc) 12 [16%]
  3. Unsure/no answer 12 [16%]
  4. Local taxicab company 9 [12%]

The app-based services did come out slightly ahead of taxicabs, but based on the totals I don’t think we can draw any conclusions.  I do have some thoughts on the topic though. While a few taxicab  companies have their own apps or are part of Taxi Magic, they’re boring by comparison. The local apps don’t simplify the payment process at your destination, one taxicab company we took last year handed us a credit card receipt to sign after swiping our card on their reader up front. Really? The other we took last year had credit card machines in the back and no paper receipt to sign, but we still had to get our card out. I used Taxi Magic once last year, which only required me to use the app on mu phone, but the driver made a big deal out of it.

In fact many drivers don’t like credit cards at all; companies take a bigger cut, are slow to pay, or something. Sorry, I’m the customer and I rarely carry more than $5 in cash.  I know a few former & current taxicab drivers, I support them in earning a living. But industries that don’t adapt to change will die off.

With the app startups I do worry about issues of riding with an unknown person using their personal vehicle.  I wonder how a whimsical taxicab company would do in St. Louis, shake up the establishment or struggle among the big players?

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "12 comments" on this Article:

  1. Michael Baldwin says:

    The regulated industry is adapting by having apps. You can pay via app with several, if you have entered your payment info. I use taxi magic and the LaClede app regularly. However, I prefer public transit if I’m not loaded down with stuff.

  2. JZ71 says:

    What might a “whimsical taxicab company” be?
    You apparently have never owned or run a company that operates on slim profit margins. The reason some companies, mostly small or sole proprietors, resist taking non-cash payments is simply because doing so means less (or no) profit. The card processor requires a fee so that you can have the convenience of not carrying cash – that comes “off the top” of any transaction. If your profit margin is 5% (based on a cash transaction) and the credit card company takes 3%, guess what? You’ve just seen your profit drop by 60% from 5% to 2%. And yes, I “get it” – the customer is king – you’re free to choose to spend your money anywhere you want to. But the flip side is that moving your business to operations like Lyft and Uber (that rely on part-time contractors) means that more traditional operations will be less able to offer full-time careers to local, usually lower-income, residents.

    • I’ve been a part of numerous cash-starved companies over the years, each worrying about making payroll each period. I get slim/non-existent profits.

      The news this morning was taking about a new survey showing how people carry very little cash: http://www.bankrate.com/finance/consumer-index/financial-security-index-cashs-cachet.aspx

      As for whimsy I think most understood I was referring to Lyft’s use of a big pink mustache on its vehicles. I forgot that not everyone can imagine that which doesn’t yet exist. A whimsical taxicab company might wrap vehicles in a design with bow ties, a paisley or plaid pattern, or have a top hat. All companies, no matter how big or small, must do marketing to stay ahead of the competition.

      • JZ71 says:

        “Very Little cash” is relative – per the survey, while 40% were in the less than $20 range, 41% were in the $20-$100 range. To some folks, $50 or $60 is “pocket change”, to others, it’s “a lot”. Granted, most people don’t carry around more than $100 in cash – that’s what credit and debit cards are for – but for smaller transactions, cash is still the way to go and won’t be going away anytime soon (as the “new survey” notes).
        As for whimsical, that would be my last reason for picking one service over another. I’m more interested in a fair price, good service and a clean vehicle – I would probably even be somewhat embarrassed to be seen in a car with a huge pink mustache! If anything, I’d be more interested if they drove Priuses instead of Crown Vic’s!

        • You do realize youre not in Lyft’s target audience of 21-36, don’t you? BTW, I noticed many more hybrid taxicabs in Chicago. I’d say the St. Louis firms are slow to adapt.

          • JZ71 says:

            I agree – I was in Denver over the weekend – same thing (more hybrids). Also, some new dedicated bike lanes in the CBD and expanded bus service: http://www.rtd-denver.com/unionstation-busconcourse.shtml . . But if you want / expect St. Louis taxi firms to “adapt”, the last thing we need to be doing is steering riders to other providers – it takes $$$$ to change over any fleet . . . .

          • Who’s steering? I’ve used taxis and will continue to use them.

          • JZ71 says:

            You certainly seem to be singing the praises of Lyft and Uber compared to our current taxi companies: ” they’re boring by comparison. The local apps don’t simplify the payment process” . . . .

          • I also wrote “With the app startups I do worry about issues of riding with an unknown person using their personal vehicle.”

    • Here’s an interesting look at how these new apps might result in higher income for taxi drivers since taxi companies will lower the costs to the drivers. http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2013/12/12/how-lyft-and-uber-will-raise-taxi-drivers-incomes-not-lower-them/

  3. pitbullstew says:

    I like a boring ride, I dont want a pink mustache or fist bump, I dont want a propaganda lecture from an uberist, I want to pay cash and tip if I feel like doing it. I dont want my CC information syored in a billion dollar corporations data base.I dont want to be there when a code enforcement officer jacks a lyft or uber driver for not having permits, background checks or random drug screens there after and are not ADA compliant?

    I dont want a car crash and then get mired in a law suit because of insufficient insurance, and then end up paying my own medical bills because both Uber and lyft seem hell bent to not have primary coverage on their commercial for hire livery operations like both muni and taxi, limo, para transit operators do because they #playbytherules.


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