All hail ride-sharing apps.
Taxi ridership dropped off significantly in 2014, according to data provided by City Hall.
In 2013, riders took 775,863 trips in Santa Monica cabs compared to 567,413 last year —a 27 percent decline.
City officials don’t outright attribute the drop to competition with ride-hailing apps but do note the timing.
“Although it is not possible to know specifically the cause of the decline, it clearly coincides with the arrival of Transportation Network Companies (TNC), such as Uber and Lyft,” they said in a report to council.
Taxi! Taxi! — one of the five companies allowed to operate in the city under the taxi franchise that expires at the end of the year — was more explicit.
“The influx of TNCs has severely impacted the ability of taxicab drivers to earn an income sufficient to support their families,” the company’s CEO Ayman Radwan said in a letter to City Council.
On Tuesday, City Council will consider moving toward amendments to the franchise agreement with the five companies.
Later this year, council could adjust the number of cabs allowed to operate in the city, require cab drivers to use ride-hailing apps, and introduce more flexible pricing options, among other things.
One solution to the looming franchise agreement changes, proposed by Taxi! Taxi!, is to cut the competition among cab drivers.
“If the City does not reduce the number of franchises and taxicabs in the City, the drivers cannot financially survive or meaningfully compete with Uber, Lyft and Sidecar,” Radwan said in a letter to council. “Taxi! Taxi! is a small local company that has remained dedicated to serving only the City of Santa Monica, and its operational costs will easily exceed its revenues if the City reduces the number of taxicabs in its fleet. It is simply not economically feasible to reduce the number of taxicabs across the existing five franchises.”
Ultimately, Radwan suggests allowing two taxi franchises with 125-cab maximums.
Taxi! Taxi! took more trips than any of the other franchises in 2013 and 2014.
The other four franchises wrote a separate letter to council, suggesting that council extend the franchises. They, too, note the negative impact ride-hailing apps have had on the taxicab industry. They claim that Uber and Lyft drivers don’t face the same regulations that cabbies do.
“We, however, are not that pessimistic,” they said in the letter. “We believe that our industry can be retooled and can successfully compete against the TNCs. However, it is up to the City to be our partner and to work with us on changes that maintain the public safety and service while reducing the regulatory inequality between us and the TNCs.”
They suggest, among other things, more flexible pricing options, prorated driver fees, and less frequent permit renewals.
Council is being asked to have city officials come back with amendments to the taxi franchise in by July and plans for the new franchise in September.