Riding to LaGuardia at the end of a business trip to New York City this past Saturday, my cab driver complained of the traffic in Midtown. In a non-malicious way (for a New Yorker), he suggested that the general increase in recent times might be due to the ride-sharing service Uber.
Generally speaking, I like Uber. I can only say “generally,” because I haven’t actually tried it yet. It’s a good idea though, as far as I’m concerned (shhh, don’t tell Hilary Clinton).
Nevertheless, call me old-fashioned or sentimental, but I still prefer a yellow cab. This is likely in part due to the fact that Grand Rapids, MI, where I live, has never had a thriving taxi business. For the most part, everyone either owns a car or takes the bus, so riding in a taxi feels like I get to be a part of every movie ever set in New York City to me. It’s at least a little magical, you know, like Die Hard 3.
Anyway, to get back to my cab driver, whose name I regret to have forgotten, I wondered if perhaps he was right. A recent article at FiveThirtyEight by Carl Bialik, Reuben Fischer-Baum and Dhrumil Mehta actually explores some data on NYC taxi and Uber business. They write that in the Manhattan core area,
The increase in total Uber and taxi pickups during evening rush hours and later at night wasn’t spread evenly between the two competing services. Instead, Uber pickups surged by more during that time than they did the rest of the day, while taxi pickups experienced their biggest drops.
So Uber isn’t just poaching cab rides, it’s getting some business from people who wouldn’t have taken a taxi. And outside of the Manhattan core the effect is even sharper: (more…)