With Uber and Lyft on the road in Nebraska legally since the middle of last year, business for traditional cab companies has fallen, according to a state regulator.
From 2014 to 2015, the number of taxi cab rides taken in Omaha and Lincoln fell by 18.6 percent, according to state data, which the Nebraska Public Service Commission provided to The World-Herald. Among its other duties, the commission regulates taxi companies and ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft.
(The ride-hailing services operated illegally in Nebraska before the state granted them authority to do business — last July for Uber, and last September for Lyft.)
In the wake of increased competition, local taxi companies say they're not hurting — especially in the face of much worse news in bigger cities. In San Francisco, a local cab company filed for bankruptcy. In New York, professional cabbies complain about increased competition — and less pay — from weekend road warriors who just hop in their cars, tap on their smartphones and start picking up fares.
John Davis, director of operations at Happy Cab, Omaha's largest taxicab company, said "business is good." He wouldn't provide specific figures. Happy also operates under the Yellow Cab, Safeway and Cornhusker brands.
The problems that traditional cab companies face in bigger cities won't likely come to pass in Omaha or Lincoln, Davis said. In those cities, people were "screaming for additional services."
There were likely hundreds — even thousands — of rides each day that those big-city cab companies weren't able to pick up prior to Uber and Lyft, Davis said. "That's not the case here."
Uber and Lyft didn't respond to requests for comment about the number of rides they've provided in Nebraska.
But the Public Service Commission said in a report to the Legislature that some taxi carriers in Omaha and Lincoln are reporting that business is down from 16 percent to 30 percent from last year. The report didn't say which companies were reporting declines, though it noted that the impact of the ride-hailing companies is being felt primarily in the Omaha and Lincoln areas.
Outside of Omaha, the ride-hailing companies haven't made a significant dent, the commission said in its report.
At least one Omaha cabdriver says he's noticed a drop in his earnings since the arrival of Uber and Lyft.
Abdullah Ali, who has worked for Happy Cab for nearly nine years, said that in the last year or so, his daily take-home pay has fallen from about $150 a day to $100 a day, he said.
To make that $100, he's having to put in longer days. "Before they showed up, I'd work about 10 hours a day," he said. "Now, to make the same amount, I have to work 14 to 16 hours. We lose business every day," said Ali, a father of three.
Happy Cab's Davis said he's not sure how much business the two ride-hailing companies are doing. The company in 2013 debuted its own mobile app for customers to book rides.
"We see them out there operating," he said. But the competitors are most visible on "any Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Omaha and Lincoln." That means there's still plenty of business on the other days — and some of those riders taking Ubers to the bars on a Saturday night might not have ever considered a taxi cab in the first place.
And Happy Cab and other carriers offer services that ride-hailing companies don't, including vehicles that can accommodate wheelchairs and the disabled.
The seven-page report gives an overview of the passenger carrier industry. It's the commission's first report on the subject since ride-hailing companies were legalized by the Legislature last year.
Of course, a one-year comparison doesn't make a trend. Even though traditional cab companies as a whole picked up fewer fares in 2015 than they did in 2014, there isn't data to compare that to years past.
Prior to the law that legalized ride-sharing companies, the commission didn't track the number of annual taxi rides, said Gerald Vap, a commissioner from McCook, Nebraska.
In other cities, the arrival of Uber and Lyft has sparked rallies, strikes and civil lawsuits. In June 2015, taxi drivers in France staged a massive strike protesting Uber drivers.
And late last year the Taxi Medallion Owner Driver Association and others filed a civil lawsuit against New York City officials for allowing Uber and Lyft to operate, a move that has inflicted "catastrophic harm" on the industry, the suit alleged.
The medallions, which are legally required to operate a taxi in New York City, once sold for more than $1 million. Now their value has been reduced by onethird to one-half in some cases.
John Boit, a spokesman for the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association, said San Francisco's Yellow Cab did not file for bankruptcy solely because of Uber. That was a part of its troubles, but it also had faced a high number of traffic accidents and a legal settlement.
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