Wednesday morning, I took an early lunch and headed to the Municipal Plaza Building to listen in on City Council’s Public Safety Committee meeting regarding rideshare, or transportation network companies (TNCs) – sparked by the recent arrival of Lyft and Uber in San Antonio. I’ve been following the rideshare issue since I got wind that they would make their debut here in San Antonio about a month ago. It was no surprise that our proud, local taxi companies greeted it with opposition, but I was curious to know their reasoning. With every accusation from detractors, logical solutions came to mind.
Arguments were made out of desperation, this was clear. It’s understandable to feel threatened. It’s understandable to be afraid.
This fear, however, is the very thing that’s holding our city back from being all it’s trying to be. But on the other hand, this fear is what helps us hold true to our roots and culture. Compromise and flexibility are the keys to finding a solution to this ongoing generational and technological battle – but that may be too much to ask in a fast-growing city.
Safety was, inevitably, a major issue during the forum. The accusations and assumptions were radical, to say the least. No matter what form of transportation is used, a safety risk is being taken. Cabs. Limos. Uber. Lyft. You’re putting your life in another’s hands. One woman taxi driver commented on the extra effort it would take to contact a distant Lyft manager or CEO about dangerous situations customers may encounter. If a person truly felt threatened, it seems quite ridiculous to focus on the administrative direction of an angry email. If a man or woman is assaulted or gets ripped off, they should contact the police. It is known that a few incidents have occurred under Lyft’s watch, but similar problems exist with cab drivers.
Having more certifications or training doesn’t make a dangerous person any less dangerous. Standard safety precautions are taken to become a Lyft/Uber driver. These customers and drivers know the risks, just as the cab drivers and their customers know and accept them.
Rideshare opponents touched on the exclusivity and/or discrimination that comes with only being able to book a Lyft using a smartphone. How will their poor, old, tech-challenged grandmother get to her doctor’s appointment if she can’t event open the app and utilize the very service they’re opposing? The confusion sets in. Are they proposing that Lyft/Uber improve their services to snag that clientele as well? So grandma can be fortunate enough catch a ride with these so-called “invaders?” It’s a niche market that these rideshare mobile applications serve, they aren’t looking to take over the entire vehicle for hire market.
Most that spoke against the TNCs made Lyft and Uber out to be these big businesses stepping on the little guy, stealing jobs and ruining lives. To me, these services are the ones being bullied by the big city cab corporations that are too stubborn to share. They’re creating jobs, and helping others get to theirs.
The reality of it all is that these services are aimed towards a certain demographic. The downtowners, urbanites, college students, and locals who need a “Lyft” from point A to point B. They don’t want to be waiting for an overpriced cab ride that lasts a fraction of the time they spent waiting for it. The cab drivers wouldn’t be running scared if they could compete with this level of service. This fit that the taxi industry is throwing is just giving Lyft and Uber some well-deserved advertisement.
*Featured/top image: Taxi drivers and media crowd the Public Safety Committee meeting room to hear talks about how San Antonio authorities will deal with rideshare/transportation network companies. Photo by Brandy Rae Perez.