It’s becoming an Epidemic, Uber!
By: Ryan Moran
Local taxi drivers say they are having trouble competing with Uber because Uber drivers do not have to meet the stringent requirements set by the city for taxi drivers.
“They (Uber) are killing us,” Shaya Mourod, a taxi driver for the All Brunswick Taxi Company told the Raritan River Review. “They have cheaper prices and no insurance. I pay $7,000 for my cab. I can’t charge a cheaper price, or I won’t survive. I hope someone helps because no one is asking for us.”
Uber, a phone-app-based ride service, has risen from start-up in its first few years in business to a company offering a serious challenge to the taxi business.
According to Forbes, in the first quarter of 2015, “an average 46 percent of all total paid car rides were through Uber in major markets across the U.S. That’s a steep rise from a mere 15 percent in the first quarter of 2014. Meanwhile, the percentage of rides in taxis, limos and shuttles fell from 85 percent to 53 percent over the same period.”
In a city like New Brunswick, Uber drivers are having a big impact and are more active than surrounding towns in Middlesex County due to a major train station, large population, and having Rutgers University as a part of the community.
Uber is the American international mobile request company that has helped to speed up the process of getting places faster. With the click of three buttons, one can set up an Uber ride.
The American international mobile ride request company is expanding and becoming more popular more than ever.
While it is usually compared to a taxi service, it is different due to Uber’s accessibility.
The company develops, markets and operates the Uber mobile app. This app is easily accessible to consumers with a smartphone.
It allows users to submit a trip request. This request shows users which drivers are closest in the area, how long until they get to their location, as well as a profile with a picture and ratings from past users.
Uber helps the passenger to scout out the drivers one prefers, and avoids the poor drivers.
Jason Sullivan, a resident of Somerset, is a father and husband working at the local Institution of Electrical Engineers in Piscataway. He works as a part-time Uber driver to have a little extra cash around for a rainy day. Unfortunately for him, with a day job, he has to work nights, usually four times a week. Luckily, he doesn’t work past 10 pm and for the most part avoids the New Brunswick nightlife.
“It’s become a reliable source of income for me, with not too much hassle involved,” Sullivan said. “Driving doesn’t bother me and the drives are such short distance drives most of the time.”
He said about 75 percent of his drives are 10 miles or less. The farthest he has driven to is to New York City but that was only one time. Occasionally, he deals with picking up people under the influence of alcohol, but says its all in good fun and is not as bad as some may think.
“Sometimes, they are very loud and obnoxious, but that’s the college crowd for you,” he said. “To be honest, I don’t mind it as much. I’d much rather them get a ride for me then to drive themselves home where they can do harm to others.”
With its rise in popularity, Uber has thrived in cities, putting taxi businesses in jeopardy.
“It’s not fun,” a driver for the Brunswick Yellow Taxi Cab Association said when asked about competing with Uber outside of the New Brunswick Train station. “I see the cars come and pick up the people off the train while I wait here. Business has been down for too long.”
Another obstacle for taxi drivers in New Brunswick is that Uber’s drivers can pick up in any town or city and drop off in any town or city.
According to New Brunswick city ordinances, taxis not licensed by New Brunswick shall not pick up within the city of New Brunswick for transport to any destination.
Taxis not licensed by New Brunswick however, may, pick up a fare outside the city and transport the rider to a location within the city.
The differences in costs and operating a taxi compared to that of an Uber are substantial.
One of the bigger differences in the business side of Uber and taxi companies is the cost in a taxi license, known as a medallion, and a commercial driver’s license (CDL), which are what Uber drivers’ need.
To drive in New Brunswick with your taxi, it costs roughly $400, while for Uber drivers, it’s $0. There are penalties for taxi drivers if they violate a New Brunswick city ordinance, while Uber drivers do not have to deal with it.
Insurance is also a topic of discussion. Uber drivers don’t have to go through specific insurance regulations and if anything happens, it is on their car own insurance. A taxi driver in New Brunswick must have a minimum of $100,000 insurance policy if they wish to operate within the city, meaning more risk is involved.
In the city of New Brunswick, a maximum of 45 taxi cars are allowed. The companies and drivers are limited in how many they can have, so that affects profit as well as amount of people available to drive, while Uber presents no limit.
The typical full-time Uber driver makes about $600-$1200 a week after expenses, namely gas. Most drivers are part-time and it is difficult to deal with the different personalities one deals with.
Uber’s app better helps the passenger to better scout out the drivers one prefers, and avoids the poor drivers.
According to mycentraljersey.com, Uber drivers must undergo a three-step criminal background screening for the United States, which includes county, federal and multistate checks that go back seven years. You’ll even be able to pull up the name of your driver and their license plate number before getting in the car. Uber continues to check in on their drivers’ DMV records regularly.
The passenger can rate the driver on a five-star scale and add additional feedback in regards to their professionalism, driving, arrival time, car quality and overall trip. However, for the passenger, the rating goes both ways, so they are to be careful not to rub their drivers the wrong way, or the driver may refuse to pick a passenger with a bad rating up.
There are drawbacks to being an Uber driver, not as bad as taxis but most notably: the wear and tear on the car; no tips are allowed; work can be slow; and an ineffective rating system, to name a few.
According to UberPeople, a Uber online forum, even a rating of four out of five stars is sometimes failing and results in the driver’s termination.
John Hayducka, 21, who recently re-enrolled at West Virginia University, after a semester off, was an Uber driver in New Brunswick for roughly seven months. He did it for the money in order to help him reenroll in college. It was one of three jobs he had at the time. He specifically worked at night because his other jobs prevented him from doing it during the day.
“I like driving and interacting with people, so I figured why not.” Hayducka said. “It was especially good because of the money I was making – roughly $500 a week. I dealt with the drunk students and there would be times I would just not talk, but there were most I would because I could relate to them.”