More than half of Raleigh's cabbies to go on strike NYE
Posted December 29, 2014
Updated December 30, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — More than half of Raleigh’s cab drivers are planning to go on strike New Year’s Eve in protest of what they say is unfair competition from ride-sharing services such as Uber.
Iyman Massoud, a cab driver who says he represents a group of about 650 local taxi drivers, says they are protesting that Uber drivers are not subject to the same licensing, registration and insurance fees as taxi cab drivers. This allows Uber drivers to charge less, creating what Massoud says is unfair competition.
Raleigh has about 1,200 taxi cabs, but Massoud said many drivers have left for other cities due to Uber. Massoud added that his group has asked Raleigh officials to regulate Uber drivers, but city leaders did not take up the issue after they were presented with a petition from cab drivers during an August City Council meeting.
"People are just suffering," said Elmutaz Adloa, a cab driver. "They cannot make a living out of this industry."
The taxi app, which allows people to use their personal vehicles to make extra money as taxi drivers or request a ride through their smartphone, has been met with ire from traditional taxi drivers around the world. Licensed taxi drivers often must have liability insurance, a commercial license and complete background checks and physicals before picking up passengers.
Some consumers see options like Uber as a good thing.
"It seems to make sense to use the cheaper option because, why wouldn't you," said Katie Brummer.
Uber driver Betty Jean Smith said she and other drivers for the service undergo background checks, have the insurance required by the state – as well as Uber coverage when driving for the company – and must maintain their vehicles to standards set by the firm.
"Each customer rates us. If we don't keep a certain rating, we are no longer allowed to drive for Uber. I have heard of a number of rude cab drivers, and it doesn't affect whether they can drive or not," Smith said in an email to WRAL News.
"This country is based on competition, and I think that the cabbies don't like the completion and they have not done anything about improving their customer service. So, people are calling Uber," she said.
While ride-sharing companies usually charge less than taxis, Uber came under fire in the Triangle for a price surge on Halloween, including charging one man more than $400 for a 15-mile trip from Durham to Chapel Hill.
Massoud said he believes Uber riders will experience similar price surges for New Year’s Eve.
Uber, which started in San Francisco four years ago, describes the practice as "dynamic pricing," which they say is based on supply and demand.
"Surge pricing solves for the perennial challenge of never being able to get a ride on New Year’s Eve, after a major sporting event or during bad weather," the company said. "Because Uber doesn’t employ drivers, every driver has a choice of how he or she spends his/her time. Surge pricing helps bring demand and supply into line, when necessary, by incentivizing more drivers to come onto the platform. Once demand falls or supply increases sufficiently, prices quickly go back to normal."
Riders are notified of surge pricing and must approve it before requesting a ride, said the company, which is expected to transport more than 1 million people across the globe on New Years Eve.
Uber has been the subject of protests in other countries, including cabbies in London bringing traffic to a standstill in June. Similar demonstrations have been held in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Boston and Paris, where taxi drivers took part in a “go slow or escargot” protest earlier this month. Uber will be banned in France starting next year.
The service has had additional troubles, from legal challenges in California to being suspended in Spain for unfair competition and banned in New Delhi after one of its drivers was accused of rape. A Dutch court ruled Uber violated taxi laws, and the company must stop working with drivers who charge fares but do not possess a taxi license.
In the Triangle, more than 100 citations were handed out to Uber drivers at Raleigh-Durham International Airport earlier this year for not complying with the airport’s permit regulations. The airport has since allowed some Uber drivers to pick up passengers.
On the airport’s “Cruising Altitude” blog, airport President Michael Landguth said the agency sent a letter to state Attorney General Roy Cooper regarding a state law that says “vehicles transporting persons for compensation” must be registered as commercial “for hire passenger vehicles.”
“The Attorney General’s answer to this question will help the Airport Authority, Uber, Lyft and their drivers resolve this issue,” Landguth wrote.
Lawmakers plan to take up the issue of ride-sharing companies such as Uber in the upcoming legislative session.
Uber has drivers in 10 North Carolina cities. Worldwide, the company is in 260 cities in 55 countries.