Community Content: AA Taxi Combats Uber with Similar App
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By Patrick Evans
Uber has invaded the United States, using large amounts of lobbying cash to push forward its ride sharing agenda. Sounds like a great idea. Anyone with a newer car and a few hours a day can become a taxi driver. The reality left out of the hype is much different. Pennsylvania hands out taxi licenses (excluding Philadelphia) based on need, experience, and the ability to operate successfully. State College and Penn State already have five taxi companies with a population of only 85,000 people with the students in town.
Our taxicabs (AA Taxi Inc.) are inspected every 5,000 miles for safety defects, and we are also inspected by the state twice each year. This helps to eliminate safety issues and keep our fleet operating. Our prices are fixed and are the lowest in the area. If we want to increase our rates, we must go through an exhaustive audit with the Public Utility Commission to prove that our rates are too low. Currently, we have not had a rate increase since 2006.
Uber does not operate that way. Their prices are based on “donations,” which are a false (in my opinion) method of payment, designed to skirt the local laws and collect money for rides. The people that do not donate will get a bad rating and will not be picked up again.
Taxi companies do not have that luxury. We are required to pick up any and all people, no matter how far they are going or if they tip or not. Even if a customer is rude, we cannot turn them down because we are tightly regulated by the state.
A woman in Baltimore was charged $362 by Uber last year for a ride home from a local bar. Because they utilize surge-pricing, their drivers can negotiate huge rate increases based on need. The 20-minute ride in our taxi would have cost $13 to $16.
The other issue with ride-sharing companies is safety. Every Monday morning, we receive multiple calls looking for lost items. The first question out of our mouths is, “What color was the cab?” Since we are the only yellow company, it is easy to determine if it was our company. The response 70 percent of the time is, “I do not remember.”
The reason I am pointing this out is two-fold. Many passengers on weekends are drinking. Many of our customers are women. If people taking taxicabs cannot identify the color of a taxi, how will they know which Uber vehicle they were in since they are all different? Our drivers are drug-tested, we check their criminal background, and driver records are inspected twice a year. Uber allows anyone with a Facebook account and a drivers license to carry passengers.
If we have a complaint against a driver, our logs are available immediately, our taxicabs are numbered, and our phone number is plastered on all sides of each cab. Our yellow color and black stickers easily identify us as a state-authorized taxi company. Would you want your daughter or son getting into a car that is only identified with a mustache? Would Facebook or Uber have a local number to call if something happens?
Number two is insurance. Uber provides insurance while the passenger is in the taxicab. Once they are out, the Uber driver goes back to their personal insurance. Pennsylvania law demands that all Uber drivers inform their personal insurance companies that they will be using their cars as a taxi, or drive-for-pay car. If the driver does not inform their personal insurance company, they will be in violation of the Public Utility Commission’s temporary two-year license issued to Uber. If the Uber driver’s personal insurance company does not know they are using their car as a taxi, will an accident be covered?
We pay enormous rates to keep our taxicabs insured 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with a valid A-rated taxi insurance company. We are covered under any circumstances.
We have installed new software in all of our taxicabs, using a company out of Toronto. Gata Labs has made an “Uber-like” mobile application that will allow our customers to contact us through the app and also see where their driver is located. It is a huge jump in the right direction for us, and we are prepared to battle Uber and any ride-sharing entity into the future.
Photo: AA Taxi Inc.