Uber is suggesting that it and black cabs can both “thrive” in London, ahead of a planned protest against the app by taxi drivers tomorrow.
In a statement, Uber says it believes it can coexist with black cabs, because there are “huge numbers of people trying to get from A to B every day in London, and our peak times are when the pubs and bars close, black cabs are at their busiest and public transport is most limited.” Uber also says it has more and more passengers who live outside central London and for these people it can serve as an important last mile link to public transport. The company says more than one in five Uber trips in the capital start or end more than half a mile away from train or tube stations outside zones 1 and 2.
Uber also insists black cabs have unique advantages, including the exclusive right to pick up passengers who hail a cab on the street, can use ranks at busy places like hotels, airports and railway stations, with street hail the most popular way for passengers in the wealthiest, busiest parts of town to get around. These advantages, say Uber, guarantee black cabs a steady flow of high-priced, high-volume trips for the foreseeable future, and as even the most avid Uber users know, there are many times when a black cab is the fastest and best option because it is literally right there on the street in front of you. There is zero waiting time and you can whizz along the bus lane.
“The answer to the very real pressures faced by black cabs is”, it says, “to reduce their costs rather than limiting passenger choice by imposing bureaucratic new rules on apps. While both black cab and licensed Uber drivers go through exactly the same background checks, taxi drivers have additional hoops they have to jump through. The Knowledge, for instance, is rightly legendary. But it means memorising 25,000 streets and 20,000 landmarks – a skill that can take up to four years to master.”
Uber asks, “in the age of GPS and live traffic apps, is such an onerous test still needed? Could a modern version of The Knowledge that took advantage of new technology and only took a year to complete be just as effective?”
Uber is also offering to black cabs reach new passengers so they get more custom, by letting black cab drivers use the ‘TAXI’ option on Uber’s app to connect to paying customers with zero service fee for the first twelve months. It says that, for Londoners it means they can order a traditional black cab at the push of a button and pay electronically through their phone, rather than worrying about cash, while for taxi drivers it’s a chance to get a fare when there are no passengers on the street or they’re waiting in a long queue at a rank.
Uber calls this approach the best of both worlds by offering a mix of “common sense regulations combined with new technology to ensure that black cabs and apps like Uber live side by side.”
How many black cab drivers take up the offer remains to be seen.