Currently in Jacksonville, anyone wishing to acquire a ride to or from any location has two options: they can either call a taxi company, or they can get on their phone and request a ride through either Uber or Lyft.
If Jacksonville’s taxi companies have their way, however, they may soon be the only remaining option.
Taxi companies have long been in conflict with services like Uber and Lyft. These services often offer more reliability, shorter wait times, and significantly cleaner cars. In Jacksonville, the difference is especially pronounced; the taxi offerings within the city are often nothing short of abysmal. Taxis have become, for many, a last resort on nights such as New Year’s Eve when Uber prices shoot through the roof. It should therefore come as little to no surprise that Jacksonville’s taxi companies wish to eliminate the stiff competition they face from these transportation app services.
The taxi companies do have reason to be upset: the city has laws on the books that require all drivers-for-hire to be screened and regulated by the city itself. The laws were originally created to accommodate UberBlack, Uber’s premium ride service that allows the reservation of higher-quality cars that are regulated by the city’s local transportation services. This was done to avoid the presence of UberX, the standard service that allows anyone approved through Uber’s safety regulations to offer up rides on their app, bypassing city regulations. Jacksonville’s city council, and taxi companies, are crying foul over UberX now being present within the city. They believe the lack of regulation could in theory put passengers in danger, despite having no data to back up the theory of Uber drivers (who face background checks performed by Uber) being any less safe than the average taxi driver.
However, while the law was supposedly meant to provide for consumer safety, in practice it seems to be more geared at placating local taxi companies hoping to squeeze out potentially superior competition. City officials insist that UberX could still work in Jacksonville, but the solutions they offer are rather shortsighted. They insist that the yearly fee of over $200 that UberX drivers would have to pay to have their vehicles and backgrounds inspected to meet city standards is completely reasonable, despite the fact that most Uber drivers are simply trying to make some extra money for themselves and thus paying a fee just to start providing rides would be counterintuitive. Similarly, they suggest the alternative of drivers forming their own local companies so as to participate in the UberBlack program instead.
It is easy to sympathize with the local taxi companies. We do want to support local businesses, and no one wants local workers to suffer at the hands of larger national companies. However, the simple fact is that our local taxi companies have failed the city for years with subpar standards of their own, and thus their (and the city’s) argument for enforcing standards among Uber drivers is falling flat.
Nonetheless, the city is pushing to support the taxis. City councilmen are calling for stricter enforcement of the current laws, or even stricter laws that could see UberX drivers getting their cars impounded. If they succeed, it’s within the realm of possibility that Uber, and the similarly-operated Lyft, could opt to pull out of the city entirely, leaving us with only the broken local taxi system. It’s great that Jacksonville’s city officials wish to support local business, but it’s hard not to think that there are many local businesses much more worthy of the significant support the city is giving taxi companies.
What do YOU think about the Uber vs. taxi battle in Jacksonville? We want to hear your thoughts! Send your views to firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet @thecoastaljax using the hashtag #JaxRide; we’ll post some of our favorite thoughts later on from both sides of the debate.