The death of the traditional taxi?
‘Patience is a virtue’ as the saying from the fifth century poem goes , but these days it’s hard to associate that quality with the majority of consumers - we don’t like to have to wait for anything. Many of us get impatient when our coffee takes too long or our take-away doesn’t get delivered as quickly as promised, First World problems I know…...When it comes to transport we certainly don’t like to hang around. We always want to be everywhere yesterday and we’ll do anything to shave a few minutes off our journeys, but what price are we prepared to pay for that luxury? It seems that as our demands have increased so have our transportation options, whilst the associated costs and market place are becoming ever more competitive.
In the olden days horse-drawn carriages provided a relatively comfortable mode of transport for those fortunate enough to be able to afford them, nowadays personal motors power us around. There are over one billion cars worldwide which provide the utmost convenience for drivers the majority of the time . However the rise of social media has also paved for the way for a new communication channel and with it a fresh era for transport.
Traditional taxi drivers and their meters are being significantly challenged via platforms like Uber, where you can summon a driver with the tap of a button or two on your smart phone. The app also cleverly gives you ‘tracking’ status information including how far away the driver is, what the car registration number is and what route it is taking to you – you even have the pleasure of being able to rate your driver on the transportation service at the end, and vice versa them on how you were as a passenger. Through this site and others like ‘Taxifare finders’ you can also calculate in advance the proposed costs of your trip so there shouldn’t be any surprises. With Uber you don’t even need to have cash on you to cover the lift, it all happens electronically and automatically through your account. It has become so popular it now operates in 64 countries. The ridesharing service says it now serves 40% of the Quebec population.
Although cabbies globally are up-in-arms about such services detracting from their businesses and livelihood, alongside calls for greater private-hire car regulation including safety measures, there is a consumer and political argument waging which defends the rise of such competition as providing people with greater choice and convenience at reduced fare rates. Many of London’s renowned black mini cab drivers are particularly incensed about the developments as they have to pass the ‘The Knowledge’, a memorisation test of London’s metropolis, in order to obtain their taxi licenses. Learning all the streets of England’s capital and its quickest routes so they need never rely on a sat nav, this can understandably take years (usually between 2-4 to achieve) as there is a minimum of 320 basic routes encompassing 25,000 streets and 20,000 landmarks . No mean feat. Tensions continue to grow between parties and operations are coming under scrutiny as expansion hurtles along, however last month a High Court judge in London ruled that the Uber taxi-hiring app was legal.
Services like Car2Go and Communuauto are also steadily increasing in popularity – they provide the convenience of car rental without the need for permanent parking and the cost and hassle of running a vehicle yourself full-time. You simply use your phone to locate a car in the vicinity as and when you need one, there are tiered membership packages depending on your automobile needs. In addition some companies offer reduced rates for long-distance trips and annual memberships which is giving traditional hire car companies a run for their money.
The old bicycle has also been enjoying a city centre revival in recent years encouraged by public services in Paris (Vélib), London (Santander Cycles) and Montreal (Bixi Bikes) to name but a few, where you can hire a bike with ease and drop it off at your desired docking station around town. Perhaps we should take heed from our eco-friendly Dutch buddies who have 22,000 miles of cycle paths in the Netherlands and a quarter of trips are made on two wheels. Although Amsterdam becoming such a bike-friendly city wasn’t without historical activism. Whatever transportation developments continue to occur, it is certain that proposed means need to be competitive, officially regulated, appealing, innovative and affordable in order to be sustainable in our increasingly demanding convenience-focused world.