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Taxi Times International - June 2015 - English

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TAXI CONFERENCE TAXI

TAXI CONFERENCE TAXI CONFERENCE Jeremy Butler: “Stay strong. Quality will always win.” COOPERATION IN TIMES OF CHALLENGE Amsterdam’s international taxi conference TAXIintell Update 2015 had as much to do with cooperation as with competition Every year a small group of taxi experts from all over the world (85 from 12 countries this time), recruited from all segments of the taxi and FHV industry, suppliers, regulators, consultants and others, meets in Amsterdam to discuss burning topics in the taxi and FHV trade. With ‘New Mobility’ as central theme, the organisers hadn’t exactly made things easy for themselves. Especially as they had set up three separate panel discussions for providers of shared mobility (one on the ‘apps’ or TNC’s – Transport Network Companies), one on the taxi and FHV industry and one on regulators. “One of our aims is to bring the whole industry together, all stakeholders, and we had hoped that providers of apps would welcome a frank exchange of information with the other two groups, especially the regulators”, said Wim Faber of organisers Challans & Faber. “But we found that they are extremely shy discussing their business models and their view of New Mobility in public, even when they have a good case to present. The regulators of major cities in Europe we invited –quite a few actually- were involved in their own evaluations of the legal situation with regard to TNC’s or entangled in legal cases, so they were less than eager to present their findings.” »Uber has spent a gazillion dollars and they’ve done our marketing work for us. Now everyone knows about the taxi industry« Tarek Mallah showed that Uber has taken over New York. That void was more than compensated for by the high-level speakers that had made it to the Dutch capital: they provided some fascinating insights on the industry and the regulatory landscape. ‘SAVED BY TAXI DRIVER’ To prove the (markedly improved) quality of Amsterdam’s taxis, keynote speaker and independent consultant Jeremy Butler, started his presentation by saying that the previous evening he got lost in the city and “was saved by an Amsterdam taxi driver”, when he was accosted by someone trying to sell him all sorts of things... The taxi driver kept an eye on Butler and opened his door just at the right time to ‘save Butler’ and gained a ride from a grateful customer. In his keynote presentation, Butler drew from 15 years of taxi and private hire experience, working for private-hire firm Addison-Lee, One Transport/Radio Taxi Group and Hailo. And whereas nobody seemed particularly interested in his work before, Butler said, now everyone wants to know: “What’s happening with Uber … Things have changed rapidly. There’s a lot of passion in the trade. It’s also a very emotive industry.” Having described how the black cabs formed a dominant industry for 200 years until only 10 years ago, Butler sketched how PHOTOS: Martin Waalboer private hire became the dominant force in the (London-based) industry (25.000 vehicles versus 85.000) and eventually the local regulator had to create a level playing field. “And now there’s change again, the e-hail industry is coming. Uber is challenging the taxi and private hire industry. And it’s easy to get sucked into Uber’s marketing speak that they’re unstoppable. But is their business model sustainable? Is it a corporate product? Uber doesn’t have a product for the corporate market. At least not in the UK. But there’s always been room for a low-cost and a lowquality product.” ‘QUALITY WILL ALWAYS WIN OUT’ Switching from one sheet of his presentation (‘Race to the top’) to the next (‘Race to the bottom’), Butler reminded the audience that monopolies don’t work and consumers demand choice. “Uber has spent a gazillion dollars and they’ve done our marketing work for us. Now everyone knows about the taxi industry. It’s up to us to exploit that. After years of underinvesting we’ve caught up. Service is the key.” “But we also have to accept change. Our industry is not exempt from change, just because it is historic. We have to change with it. I have had to change. Now there’s consolidation, there’s aggregation…. Last week in London I hosted a breakfast for about 30 taxi and private hire suppliers. Before they would gladly have stabbed each other in the back, but now they have realised they have to work together.” And looking at the consumer, Butler mentioned the sharing economy. He didn’t hold out much hope for it: “In London two platforms have just opened up to pool trips and passengers. But human nature is: people don’t like to share. At least not in Britain. We already had that software way back at Addison-Lee. People don’t like to share taxi space. So there is more than one market globally. The cream always rises to the top”, Butler said, summarizing. “As an industry I believe we are strong enough. My message is: stay strong as suppliers, as an industry, because quality will always win out.” Not only Butler’s speech was full of such insights, many speakers provided the 85 attendees –themselves specialists from all over the globe- with worthwhile background and networking info. Chairs James Cooper (Taxi Research Network – policy), Peter Schenkman (Keeping it Wheel – technology) and Niels van Roij (Independent Automotive Designer – design and accessibility) guided the session specialists smoothly through 17 (!) separate presentations in two days. SHARED ECONOMY – SHARED MOBILITY? Pieter van de Glind (Share.nl) sketched the different approaches within the (growing) sharing economy, sharing everything from goods and services to … pets and money. He paid particular attention to sharing mobility (with typical examples like BlaBlaCar, SnappCar and similar others, but not necessarily Uber) and what we can expect in that area. And that, according to him, is an avalanche of new services. The collaborative economy is now worth billion and is expected to grow to $ 335 billion in 2025. (More on that on page 25). Talking about cooperation, Oleg Kamberski (IRU) mentioned the new approach from his organisation and the first successes of the Global Taxi Service Quality Network (GTN), now linking 7 partners, 14 countries and 200.000 taxis. IRU’s new approach aims at lobbying at policy level to ensure a level playing field, setting up an alliance of supportive institutions, re-launching AMSTERDAM’S NEW APPROACH WORKS Noortje Smit, who manages Amsterdam’s Taxi Team, provided a warm welcome from the city that coined the phrase ‘taxiwars’. Now competition is less ‘war-like’ with 12 separate unities or TTO’s (Autonomous Taxi Organisation, modelled on the New Zealand example) vying for the attentions of the Amsterdam taxi user. All that in an effort to make Amsterdam’s taxis and drivers “safe, reliable and honest.” Each Amsterdam TTO counts a minimum of a 100 drivers and 50 cabs and each organisation is responsible for its administration, operations and the discipline amongst its drivers. Dispatch-centre TCA is by far the largest local company (TTO) with 1.400 cabs. The number of taxi drivers in Amsterdam stands at 3.642 and is increasing as the Dutch market is liberalized en entry is relatively easy. The purpose of the TTO’s was to make drivers less anonymous and more accountable, but competition between TTO’s is still quite feeble on this traditional street hail and rank market. The quality perception of taxiusers is gradually improving and the new approach has also improved relations between the city and its taxi drivers. Noortje Smit: “TTO policy will make all Amsterdam cabs and drivers ‘safe, reliable and honest.’ 18 TAXI JUNE / 2015 19

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