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Taxi Times International - October 2015 - English

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  • Drivers
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  • Athens
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  • European
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  • Passenger
  • Urata
  • Faber


CONFERENCE APPS CHINESE-AMERICAN COOPERATION This company – looking for European expansion – developed a system of psychological assessment for employing staff members in aviation, public transport and taxis. Everyone knows Uber by now, but Lyft, another ride hailing service using non-professional drivers, has long been established in the U.S. The company has not yet expanded beyond the U.S., but has now announced a noteworthy cooperation. It will be possible in the future to hail a vehicle in China with the Lyft app. You then become a customer of Didi Kuaidi, the leading taxi app in China, which also hails at least some taxis. It is supposed to work the other way around as well: If you use Didi to hail a ‘taxi’ from China in the U.S., you get a Lyft driver. Didi Kuaidi is a merger of the former biggest taxi and for hire vehicle companies in China. Like Uber, the company constantly receives capital from investors and is now participating in many applications in the Asian region including GrabTaxi, which offers its service in 26 cities in six different countries in Southeast Asia. The Chinese also invested 100 million dollars in Lyft back in March. Not the least because the media are speculating as to whether GrabTaxi will soon join the newly established network. jh Lyft: A ridiculous distinguishing feature, but a competitor to be taken seriously in the passenger transport market thanks to Chinese support. There is a large choice in taxi vehicles (most of them assembled in St. Petersburg) with many Nissan and Kiavehicles in the local streets. But no taxi meter … every party offering transport on the taxi market – either by app or in the more traditional way. The large number of illegal taxi drivers and illegal providers of taxi services (apps, call-centres) plus the lack of proper policing of the few rules which exist, clearly anger the Russian colleagues. There’s a lot still to do in Russia when it comes to proper taxi regulation. Not just nationally, but especially regionally and locally. A large number of politicians and regulators had come to the Taxi Forum to discuss just that. The largest problem is the continuing competition of illegal taxi drivers. No real surprise in a country where sharing the scarce vehicles (for payment) was the norm for decades. Why do illegal taxis still exist? An official taxi licence doesn’t cost anything and is easily obtained. Stranger still: it does not have to be handed in to the authorities when the operator stops operating his taxi business. So even illegal taxi drivers have the proper paperwork. There are many more licences in circulation than actual taxis. And policing of the taxi trade is patchy, depending on the region. The many speakers and the audience repeatedly demanded proper licensing and regular policing of licences, preferably with a central (regional) database of legal taxi drivers and licences still in circulation and being operated. Under the heading of ‘illegal taxis’ come the drivers, but also the many booking centres and dubious apps. Both booking centres and apps can be started and closed at will, without any authority knowing about it. Often a taxi company is not what is seems in Russia. ‘BEST PRACTICES’ The list of speakers was impressive. Most areas in the taxi world were represented. Representatives from various ministries urged the taxi industry to opt for more regional regulation, as the national laws with regard to taxi transportation are relatively weak and sketchy. The detailed legal work has to be done in the region with the help of the federal framework. Taxi operators from certain areas pointed out that by strengthening laws and by working together with the authorities, the number of illegal taxis had been reduced to nearly 0%. Some specialists in the audience also pointed at developments in other countries, Russia could learn from. For every presentation there was a long and protracted, but also very enthusiastic discussion. A pattern which lasted for two days and came back in every topic. In Russia, there is a great thirst for information and technology. Another strongly worded demand: learning from ‘best practices’, as some other regions have no special policies to reduce the number of illegal taxis, call-centres and apps. It doesn’t help that fines for trespassers are ridiculously low. Having followed the discussion for a while, it is hard not to think of the Russian taxi industry as the ‘Wild East’: for instance access to airport ranks is often unregulated and badly organised, the fare structure is only clear to seasoned users, the licencing system badly needs an overhaul, taxation is often unclear and there is a strong need for professional training of taxi drivers. In that area the IRU Taxi Group promoted its ‘Taxi Stars’-programme, a few weeks before it was launched officially in Athens on September 25 (see page 8). One clear difference between ‘our’ taxi industry and the Russian taxi sector: the large number of women in management and other leading positions. Most themes dealt with in the conference were similar to topics here: new forms of payment, credit cards, development of apps, IT-problems and types of vehicles. Most dealt with street-hail taxi – contract work seems to be in its infancy in Russia, paratransit by taxi companies almost non-existent. This image was reflected in the trade show: there was no taxi meter to be found anywhere, but there were quite a few IT- and app stands. Financial solutions and roof signs (with all sorts of video messages) were also quite popular. Very different: a stand with medical equipment (some taxi companies give drivers a quick check-up every day) and a stand with a system of psychological assessment for employing staff members. Strange: few classic car brands from the West. Vehicles galore, but rather different ones: from the Mercedes E220 and Sprinter to many Kia, Nissan, Citroën and Lada models next to one Chinese brand. wf PHOTO: Wim Faber PHOTOS: flickr/Alfredo Mendez, Fotolia / Konstantin Yolshin Fotolia / william87 Moscow’s taxi market is estimated at billion. RUSSIA’S YANDEX TAXI-APP BEATS UBER In 2011 Russia’s Google, the main search engine Yandex, started running a taxi-app that many now call ‘Russia’s Uber’. Where Uber has its own way in many markets, it seems to have met its match in Russia. Latest figures suggest between 15.000 and 20.000 taxis written up for the Yandex platform, whereas Uber has between 3.000 and 5.000 taxicabs – less than Gett, with 10.000 taxis in Moscow alone. Yandex is thinking of foreign expansion, starting in former Russian states and Turkey. The Yandex taxi app works like an aggregator. It doesn’t care which company the cab is from, it finds the cab closest to the person needing a ride and connects them. Some 200 to 300 cab companies have already opted for the service. This year Yandex Taxi plans to expand to 25 Russian cities starting from Moscow and St. Petersburg. Investment sources think this move could bring total sales for Yandex Taxi to 10 billion rubles (about $ 154 million). Moscow’s taxi market alone is estimated at billion. wf NEWSTICKER NEW APP FOR 7,000 NEW YORK TAXIS Since Uber expanded its activities to New York, the local taxi trade has suffered substantial losses. Many taxis stand vacant because the previous drivers have now been hired by the competition. Even more serious is the fact that the value of a New York taxi licence (medallion) has fallen from one million to 500,000 dollars. The taxi trade is now trying to regain lost territory by developing the ‘Arro’ app. Unlike the Uber app, the passenger does not have to pay a two-dollar hailing fee. The app is linked directly to the payment terminal in the taxi, enabling cashless payments. The passenger can also be sure that price will not be raised indiscriminately during peak traffic times (surge pricing). At the moment, Arro users can ‘only’ hail around 7,000 yellow and green cabs in New York (where Uber has already deployed 20,000 vehicles), but expansion to other cities in the U.S. is planned. jh Arro: New York taxis now have their own app. 18 TAXI OCTOBER / 2015 19

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