Taxis

What Do You Know? Competition Improves Taxi Services.

Studies showing city folk getting better treatment.

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"Thank you for not trying to actively get me killed, today!"
Credit: pennuja / photo on flickr

File under "You don't say":

The Technology Policy Institute's Scott Wallsten, in research presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association, finds evidence in New York that the number of complaints per taxi trip there has declined as Uber has expanded in the city. In Chicago, complaints about air conditioning, "broken" credit card machines and rude drivers have fallen as well with the recent rise of alternatives to taxicabs. …

As Uber grew more popular in New York (a trend Wallsten corroborates with Google Trends data), complaints fell, even controlling for factors like the weather that might affect taxi service.

Source: The Washington Post.

The numbers show the change in complaints vs. hundred thousand rides, so it's not a matter that complaints have dropped just because people stopped riding taxis in New York. People who are riding taxis are complaining less frequently.

Emily Badger notes that Chicago's numbers aren't based on the total of taxi trips, so it's not clear whether the change is connected to a drop in taxi use. But in both cases taxi passengers appear to be seeing better service.

This is obviously a good sign, not just for passengers, but for the health of the taxi services themselves. When ride-sharing services began intruding into the cartel-controlled taxi industry, responses showed how little the industry understood—or cared—that their success depended on how they treated their customers. It didn't matter until passengers had easier and cheaper alternatives. Then they responded with absurd ideas like strikes, a concept that doesn't work at all when the whole point is that your customers are tired of dealing with your wretched behavior and are now actively trying to avoid you.

As a result, all customers may end up getting treated better, even those who continue riding taxis rather than shifting to Uber or Lyft.

It reminds me of a time several years ago when I lived in a community that had no charter school presence. The school district and school board resisted any effort for charter programs to be created within the school system, despite unhappiness expressed by parents over the status quo. Eventually, an established charter system managed to expand into the community, overcoming resistance because it had an actual history of performance to point to.

Then, about a year after the charter program established itself, and other charter programs started approaching the community, the school district's high school announced a host of planned improvements to provide more choices for students and parents, even including online courses for credit. Because of the challenge and competition provided by the alternative charter program, students were getter better options even if they stayed in their public schools. The schools had every incentive to up their games (if they weren't able to stop the charter schools), because otherwise they'd lose state per-pupil funding.

Read more about the taxi study here.

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72 responses to “What Do You Know? Competition Improves Taxi Services.

  1. I hate when we indulge morons by trying to prove every instance of freedom is better than regulation. Why not just allow the principle to speak for itself? It’s a losing battle to go through everything that could be regulated or interfered with by the state and do a study on whether the regulation helps or hurts. We play their game of “what is ‘scientifically’ best?” My answer to that is – who cares? Freedom should win every time. On principle.

    1. Since when do opponents of freedom have principles?

    2. They probably feel the same way about the principles of democratic government and economic equality.

      1. I do see your point, but at least those are arguments over the principles themselves. They should just come out and say that they are not really for freedom, but “economic equality” (a laughable premise to begin with), or say that all of the reasons those evil white men rejected democracy 240 years ago are wrong. I just think we play into their hands when we try “but it works!” arguments. That’s what they do. The Best Men and all that.

        But, then, these are not principled times… or even remotely intellectual ones.

        1. My point is that principles aren’t the only epistemic framework. Some people find empirical data more persuasive than principled arguments or logical constructions, while others are more swayed by emotional appeals or religious commandments or well-crafted narratives. That’s why it’s important to promote freedom from every angle, like the Hindu gods who have a thousand arms so they can reach out to everyone in their own way.

          1. But if you believe in freedom qua freedom on principle, can you promote it to people successfully without convincing them that it is right on principle? If you only persuade on utilitarian grounds, you’ll end up with people who don’t share your conclusions all the time, and who think freedom and noncoercion are less valuable than, e.g., being alive.

            1. Well, a) no one is going to share your conclusions all the time, and 2) the boundaries between deontology and consequentialism are blurry enough to permit partisans on either side to frame arguments in ways that are at least coherent to the other side.

            2. “you’ll end up with people who don’t share your conclusions all the time, and who think freedom and noncoercion are less valuable than, e.g., being alive.”

              speaking to someone’s pocketbook is a lot more effective than arguing about hypotheticals that won’t affect your target in a meaningful way 99% of the time.

              natural rights are not going to trump emotional arguments most of the time for sixpack joe. A guy who likes his home subsidized football team could care less about the non-aggression principle. He’ll change his mind, if you could show him that he could have that tax money to instead buy that new driver that he thinks will improve his golf game.

              1. speaking to someone’s pocketbook is a lot more effective than arguing about hypotheticals that won’t affect your target in a meaningful way 99% of the time.

                It’s not more effective if speaking to someone’s pocketbook doesn’t result in them sharing my values or conclusions. Worrying about your pocketbook is what makes for complacent citizens that don’t overthrow the state or stop feeding it new taxpayers.

                1. it also results in welfare programs like Social Security and mortgage interest deductions.

          2. Fair enough.

            Of course, let’s not pretend that this will work anyway. The “but think of the children!” people tend to win out on these things. You mention emotional appeals. Those seem to be what the sheep respond to the most.

            Can you tell I’m cynical?

            1. We’re even reaching out to the Helen Lovejoys of the world. Baylen Linnekin does some excellent work showing that kids thrive outside the Skinner Box and off the leash. The real disadvantage that we have over other political philosophies is that our ideals preclude us from using the government to impose them on people the way Team Red and Team Blue do.

      2. You mean the principles of force and theft, Hugh. Did your dyslexia kick in just now? Or maybe even your sexlexia?

        1. It’s a very sensual learning disorder Epi.

          1. EROTIC!

    3. The average person, more or less, is utilitarian, and doesn’t value freedom the way we do. Therefore, cost-benefit analysis, unfortunately, carries more weight.

      1. But it frequently results in the “wrong” conclusion from the perspective of someone who values freedom above all else.

    4. Plus the cartel doesn’t give a shit about their customers so it’s not like this argument will have any impact with them.

      It might help convince the general public, though, to stop arguing against their own interests.

  2. What Do You Know? Competition Improves Taxi Services.

    Now you know why unions hate Uber.

    1. The old economy charges $45 for a cab ride from the airport, while the new economy charges only $25. Something’s bound to break, and right now it’s the workers.

      Boo fuckity hoo.

      http://www.seattletimes.com/se…..t-bumpier/

      1. If you can’t make a living doing X, do Y instead. Yeah, transitioning is hard, but who says you are owed a smooth ride?

      2. after expenses, insurance and paying off Uber, Gobena ended up making only about $3 an hour last year

        How long did it take him to figure this out? Assuming it’s not a complete lie. Dumbass.

        1. after expenses, insurance and paying off Uber, Gobena ended up making only about $3 an hour last year

          That may not be true. Through-put accounting would consider insurance and his car payments to be sunk costs, so if he wasn’t driving for Uber, his car would be sitting in his garage still racking up those costs.

          1. Through-put accounting would consider insurance and his car payments to be sunk costs, so if he wasn’t driving for Uber, his car would be sitting in his garage still racking up those costs.

            Ed Zachary. Unless be bought a car exclusively for Uber and/or Lyft, and would still be driving the ’77 Impala if he were a regular cab driver.

      3. And the city isn’t even competent enough to properly prop up their cartel at the airport:

        You just head to the airport light-rail station, take the elevator down to the street and voil? ? there will be 5 to 15 Uber cars, waiting to take you wherever you want to go.

        The horror!

      4. I’m pretty sure Uber/Lyft are not making money on their fees currently as they’re still the “underdogs”. The fees will equalize at some point.

      5. Nope. Its the owners. The workers have a minimum wage federally guaranteed. The owners can lose money they don’t even have.

  3. It reminds me of a time several years ago when I lived in a community that had no charter school presence…

    I suggest that you might not have thought charter schools fully through.

    http://www.cwcsilverlake.org/

    1. I don’t get it. What’s the problem?

    2. Publically funded religion.

      1. Right, I’m sure the Teachers’ Union principal complaint is that your kids are hearing too much about God.

      2. I don’t think you read the link.

      3. “the diversity of individual students’ skills, learning styles and array of multiple intelligences”

        That does sound like a religion. “Multiple intelligences”? Good God.

        1. “Multiple intelligences”?

          So you reject modularity of brain and mind?

          1. That sounds made up so… yes?

            1. Wernicke’s and Broca’s aphasia ring a bell?

              1. I’ve heard of Broca’s Brain.

                1. But he picked up Abbie Normal’s brain by mistake.

    3. Perhaps this needs some context. There are no Asian kids in the marketing photos. In Los Angeles! If this charter school had a rigorous academic program there would nothing but Asians attending.

      1. So you found a ‘bad’ charter school, therefore all charter schools are bad?

      2. If that is what the parents want who cares.

      3. Well, there’s no black kids pictured either at a school that sells itself on diversity, but that’s not so surprising since Silverlake is mostly Latinos and lilywhite hipsters.

        1. There are several black kids in the photos. Is my link wrong or are being dishonest?

      4. Yeah, I’m somewhat negative on charter schools. It seems to be one of a thousand other suggestions to provide kids with a better education.

        There’s that DNA thingy that confines the children of trailer park dwellers to not be college professors. That’s a hard pill to swallow. Everyone like a rags to riches story, but as Charles Murray points out this well spring of genius is getting dry.

        1. Uh, except that sometimes kids who grew up in trailer parks do become professors, or business owners, or filmmakers, or inventors, or any number of useful and prosperous things. So that kinda proves that DNA and even environment aren’t destiny.

          1. ^^This^^ My siblings and I grew up poor as in went to bed hungry poor. I am the least successful of the four of us, earning on my own above the median household income for my city, county, state and nation. My siblings all have graduate degrees and the one with a Ph.D. in a hard science and post-doc from Columbia is a millionaire.

      5. If this charter school had a rigorous academic program there would nothing but Asians attending.

        Huh?

      6. “f this charter school had a rigorous academic program there would nothing but Asians attending.”

        The soft prejudice of inflated expectations?

  4. It may also be that those most likely to complain are also those most likely to do something about it besides complaining, like try Uber or Lyft.

    1. My thoughts … you stole them.

    2. Conversely (and anecdotally), i’ve encountered a number of progfolk who are anti-ridesharing specifically BECAUSE Uber and Lyft are competing with properly unionized, well-regulated taxi cartels. People of that type would be less likely to complain about poor cab service now than they would have been a few years ago.

      1. I used to work in a unionized field and an still FB “friends” with a few union douches. They continually post political crap like ^that (and worse) from a group unashamedly called Union Thugs. I’m sure the more principled of them are strictly avoiding Uber.

        1. I’ve seen reposts from Union Thugs. The name is pretty clearly a sort of tongue-in-cheek thing, like Hit’n’Runners talking about using orphan labor in their monocle factories.

          Except that unions have been and are still associated with a great deal of actual, violent thuggery, while i’m pretty sure no one posting here really owns a monocle factory.

          1. I outsource my monocle manufacturing.

          2. I perfected a monocle tree, for the environment.

    3. Well, yeah, it’s definitely a “first world problem” to be complaining about taxi service, isn’t it?

      “Oh, you didn’t receive the friendliest service in your 20 minute tax ride? Well, at least you’re not in some Third World hellhole hoping [insert military power here] doesn’t ‘accidentally’ bomb you.”

    4. dammit

  5. Competition improves service? How can that be possible? Duplication of services leads to inefficiency and inefficiency leads to higher costs and higher costs leads to competitors cutting corners on the health and safety of their products, their workers and their consumers in the name of profits. That’s just common sense, man! There’s like 23 different kinds of deodorant on the market – think how much more efficient a single deodorant manufacturer would be if he didn’t have to worry about competitors stealing his customers. He would be free to use the highest quality ingredients and the best manufacturing process without having to worry about the cost, he would be free to set his prices as low as he liked without worrying about remaining as profitable as any other deodorant manufacturer to attract investors, he could give consumers as much value as he wanted without worrying about giving them too much…. it would be a virtual consumer paradise if the deodorant manufacturer knew he could depend on his loyal customers to remain loyal because they have no alternative.

    1. cable providers provide a good example of how that system works.

      que: south park-cable company full scene from “informative murder porn”

  6. “Then, […] the school district’s high school announced a host of planned improvements to provide more choices for students and parents, even including online courses for credit.”

    Want to get someone’s attention? Hit ’em in the wallet.

  7. who says you are owed a smooth ride?

    It’s right there in the Social Contract.

    Were you raised by wolves?

  8. What made me start using Lyft was the absolutely shitty service I received from taxi companies in San Francisco. I was in an area not that frequented by taxis (apparently) and I called taxi dispatch at least three times; nobody came. I finally walked five blocks to a thoroughfare and still had to wait for 20 minutes for an empty taxi to come by.

    1. I have never seen it worse anywhere than SF. You can’t get one on the street because all the cabs you see are on their way to calls. And like you said, they don’t come when you call. Perhaps those ones are picking up street hails.

      1. And then the ones in the hotel cab stands get PISSED if you ask them to take you somewhere other than the airport.

      2. Go to the Hilton San Francisco Financial District on Kearny Street and have the bellhop hail one for you. He’ll go right out into the street when he sees one coming, wave his arms and blow his whistle. The only downside I can see is that you’d need to find a ride to get to him.

    2. I finally walked five blocks to a thoroughfare and still had to wait for 20 minutes for an empty taxi to come by.

      According to the Seattle Times, this is better for Workers.

  9. As I recall, much of baby boomer liberalism involved hating on the soul-crushing Corporation Man culture. Now they all cry about the evil gig economy, because it lacks that culture’s cushy cradle to grave paternalism.

  10. Just set up an Uber account a few minutes ago. Can hardly wait to check it out.

  11. As much as I agree with the premise that competition does improve service, there is one factor that is not (and probably cannot be) controlled for in such surveys. It could be that people who previously complained have moved over the alternative services thereby lowering the number of complaints without any concomitant changes by the traditional taxi services. (You know, the old joke about Okies moving to California and raising the average IQ in both states.)

    Apropos to the analogy of charter schools; I moved to NH and found the traditional public schools here to be mostly abysmal to downright criminal. I had no choice the first year here because I had missed the window to get my kids into the few charter schools the state DoE has reluctantly allowed. Many of the parents with children in the same classes as mine would screech up a storm in private conversations. After the first year I was able to get my children into a choice of charter schools. I encouraged some of the parents I spoke with to do the same, but I would get excuses like, “it’s too far to drive” or “they’re probably no different than what we have” or, even, “it just takes money away from the local school and makes it worse”. OK, I’m sorry/not sorry that your children will be working for mine in the future.

  12. Or the people who were likely to complain stopped using taxis and now use Uber.

  13. I think, in many occasions hiring a taxi is the best choice than self drive. But it is much difficult to find a best taxi services in many places. We should take care of it, because we can’t play with our life.

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