News & Politics

Study: Competition from Uber, Lyft Making Cab Drivers Nicer

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Great, now make cab rides cheaper.

Taxi drivers are hamstrung in their ability to compete with Uber. They don’t control the major lever of competition, the ability to lower their fares. They aren’t allowed to surge price either, which can boost the supply of cars when and where passengers need them. In many markets, they can’t let riders pay by smartphone or order a car that way.

But taxi drivers do control many aspects of the quality of a ride. And in one fascinating consequence of the rise of Uber, it looks — in passenger complaint data — as if taxi drivers under new competition may be trying harder to give you a pleasant ride.

The Technology Policy Institute’s Scott Wallsten, in research presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association, finds evidence in New York that the number of complaints per taxi trip there has declined as Uber has expanded in the city. In Chicago, complaints about air conditioning, “broken” credit card machines and rude drivers have fallen as well with the recent rise of alternatives to taxicabs.

I know, I know, astute PJ Media readers are saying, “No kidding.” Sadly, proof of the benefits of marketplace competition is still news to lefties and it is worth taking a look at the number of times they are forced to admit it (the lefties in this case being the Washington Post, of course).

It has been in cities that are controlled by Democrats (who are basically owned by Big Labor) that Uber, Lyft and other taxicab alternatives have met legal challenges, almost none of which have stuck. Government-regulated monopolies fear competition, because even the most ardent leftists end up noticing just how awful they are.

As a veteran traveler and user of taxis, I can assure you that Uber and Lyft (the only alternatives I’ve tried so far, but I’ve used both a lot) are testaments to the monumental difference just cleaning up the car and being polite can make. Both are also generally less expensive than cab rides, which are ridiculously priced in Los Angeles. However, I would gladly pay a premium for the vastly superior experience.

When the cab companies could work in cahoots, thanks to their regulatory cronies, there was no incentive for the drivers to be decent in any way.

Now, thanks to the miracle of competition, they’re hitting the car wash more than once a year.