Jun 032016
 

UPCOMING WORKSHOP

SHOULD THE CITY ALLOW UBER AND OTHER RIDE-SHARE COMPANIES TO OPERATE IN KEY WEST?

JUNE 15, 2016

5:30 PM

OLD CITY HALL

GREENE STREET

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Arnaud and Naja Girard
Arnaud and Naja Girard, owners and editors of the new, digital, Key West the Newspaper (The Blue Paper) previously reported for the former Key West The Newspaper, Key West’s longest running independent weekly, published by Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D., from January 1994 until November 2012. The Girards are perhaps best known for their discovery of and extensive research surrounding the US Navy’s 1951 claim of ownership of Wisteria Island but are also responsible for top investigative stories including breaking news coverage of the highly controversial in-custody-death of Charles Eimers on Thanksgiving Day 2013, the catastrophic police tasing of Matthew Shawn Murphy, and the property tax scandal involving Balfour Beatty to name a few. Arnaud and Naja have lived in Key West since 1986.

  23 Responses to “Key West Cabbies Debate Uber Fans”

  1. Other local cab driver comments I recall hearing at Sam Kaufman’s town hall meeting:

    Most Uber drivers will commute down from Miami to Key West for the weekends and special Key West events, and sleep in their cars (which is illegal in Key West).

    Unlike local taxi companies, Uber drivers do not pay for business licenses, they do not get permits, they are not locally regulated as a quasi-utility like local taxi companies, and Uber fares vary (rise sharply) during peak ride times.

    Unlike locally-owned taxi companies, Uber is owned by a mega corporation, which answers only to itself and owns none of its drivers’ vehicles.

    If a local taxi has an accident and a passenger is injured, the taxi company is sued and its insurance company pays off the plaintiff.

    If a Uber driver has an accident and a passenger is injured, the City of Key West also is sued, because it did not regulate, licence and permit the Uber driver. (A big Uber fan told me yesterday that Uber has liability insurance covering its drivers. I replied, even so, this ex-lawyer says that does not preclude the city being sued for not regulating Uber drivers like it regulates taxi drivers.)

    Several major U.S. cities have banned Uber, and several other major U.S. cities are moving in that direction. City Manager Jim Scholl in the audience was asked by a local cab driver to call those cities and find out why they had banned or are moving toward banning Uber, so that information is available during the upcoming city workshop. Scholl said he would make the calls.

    Local taxi company owners have been reluctant to change, upgrade their cabs, and provide I-phone aps like Uber drivers and their customers use to communicate with each other.

    There are local taxi drivers, we (the cab drivers at the meeting) all know who they are, who should be reined in, or not be allowed to drive taxis in Key West. We will get on that.

    Sam Kaufman suggested the local taxi drivers form a labor union to force their owners to do better and get involved.

    Privately, I told the cab drivers after the meeting ended that they had educated me well, thanks. And, they need to get their owners involved in the upcoming city Uber workshop. And, they need to hammer their point that most Uber drivers will be unlicensed, unpermitted, unregulated mainland commuters, who come down on weekends and during major events, then take their money made back to the mainland.

    Even if the city permits and regulates Uber drivers, I am flat opposed to allowing Uber drivers to commute from the mainland, or even from, say Marathon. I just went through listening to months of city officials arguing they had to save 157 market rate Peary Court “workforce housing” rental housing units, so the fairly well-held people living there will not be evicted by a greedy foreign (mainland) developer, who will tear it down and build upscale housing there. What’s the difference between that and protecting a larger number of local taxi drivers (workers) and their families from a foreign Uber invasion?

    I don’t use taxis, have never used Uber, and I didn’t know enough to comment into the Uber public debate, other than, spank me, I could have said it has been my observation and experience that local taxis tend to blow through pedestrian crosswalks in Old Town and on North Roosevelt Blvd, when pedestrians are trying to cross the road, and it is mostly local taxis that tend to come closest to knocking me off my bicycle when I’m riding in the bike lane on Southard and Fleming Streets in Old Town.

    • How can they predict where the drivers will live or how. My thinking is that locals are more likely to be the Uber drivers to fill in the income they need from regular jobs that pay shitty. I hardly think many from Miami would drive 3 hours down and 3 hours back just to earn good money for a days work. Why should a tourist care if the money stays in KW. This is about free enterprise and FL is a right to work state. See no big deal if they live in Marathon as a 1 hour commute to a job is normal in many cities. Lets treat this for what it really is. A tourist wants to find a reasonable priced choice on getting back to where they are staying after drinking too much. Would it not be far safer for an unlicensed uninsured sober driver to get them home and let the car stay parked ? The city and cab drivers are only interested in money. Let supply and demand solve the problem.

      I am not at all concerned if cab companies go bust. And the last thing we need is a union.

      Nothing says the city can’t be sued if a cab gets into an accident. Actually the city is more likely to get sued if any negligence on the cities part is questioned. Just what makes anyone think the city regularly inspects the cabs or the drivers ?

      Now here is a simple solution. Create unlimited number of licences and yes make all for hire and Uber drivers pay for full background check and a regularly inspected vehicle. How often should such cars be inspected ? Given the number of hours of use maybe once a month. Require a doctor to check them every few months. Keep this fee low enough to pay the true cost but not a profit. This is a service the city should supply for the safety of the users. Always remember that even the best background check does mean the driver is not a rapist or drug user. All it means is they have not been caught yet.

      A smart cab driver will be ready WHEN Uber is allowed to operate. There is no legal reason to stop such a service. Just regulate the safety issues and forget about who makes money.

    • Your comments are uninformed. UBER is strong in South Florida! Only in Key West, where the TAXI industry has a monopoly* is UBER not allowed! Of course all the TAXI drivers got together to scare the politicians!!! Most large cities have few problems with UBER and may have misstepped initially banning what they failed to understand but most have reconciled with their premature decisions.
      The largest tourist destinations like Los Angeles and New York City can’t all be wrong about UBER.

      Vacationers want it. If they cannot get what they want they will look elsewhere! What good is 100% of nothing?!?!

      *TAXI drivers say “Let them get licenses like us” EXCEPT NO NEW LICENSES have been issued since 1992!!!!!

      Sounds like a MONOPOLY, YES?!?!?

  2. Received this email today from the big Uber fan mentioned in my previous comment – a very good friend of mine.

    Morning Sloan,

    I wanted to follow up on our conversation last night by giving you a few links to Uber’s website. These are all on the website but I thought I’d provide them to make it easy. There is much more information available on the site.

    https://www.uber.com

    https://www.uber.com/safety

    https://www.uber.com/helping-cities

    https://www.uber.com/drive

    As we discussed, I travel fairly often and Uber has changed to way I get around. Unfortunately Uber is not a publicly traded company.

    One last point I would make is a simple challenge to everyone involved in the conversation is to actual use Uber so they can have at least a basic understanding of what they are talking about. From what I have heard so far, most opponents might as well be arguing against bringing dragons into Key West.

    Todd German

    I replied:

    People argued against dragons buying Peary Court, and the city helping other dragons buy it from the first dragons :-).

  3. For us when we are in KW and do not wish to drive and worry about parking the choice is simple, 66666. Why is simple, they are prompt, easy to spot and $10 including tip usually gets us any place we care not to walk. We can easily afford the service. But this should be our choice. The only true reason to justify the price being that high is because the license fee is far too high and the owner needs a profit. I totally understand cab drivers fighting this as it is their income. What they are missing is that with in time they will soon be out of a job or at the least work far less. The city just wants the money from the fee so they can waste it on a bubba job. Can the city afford the fight in court and law suit ? This could be millions. To the cab drivers I suggest you get some money in the bank and get ready to become a Uber driver because it is coming like it or not. Actually it will lower traffic because Uber does not keep circling the block. Take a look at the live cams on Duval and Greene and you will see 3 or 4 cabs at same intersection often. Sure the owners are fighting it and I would too if someone was taking my business away. I did notice it was stated what a Uber driver makes an hour but we did not hear what a cab driver makes. This is all about supply and demand.

    Are a few groups to look at here
    1 the customer and being it is their money they should pick who they hire. If I lived on the island and needed a cab every day then the cost is major.
    2 the cab owner and we know his real concern is not the customer but his wallet
    3 the drivers need a job and this is not a hard dirty job or one that requires high skills
    4 the city wants the fees but are risking lawsuits by stopping Uber and they can’t afford the fight.

    How will it end ? As usual in KW your commissioners do not care what the voters want. Someone will likely get them to vote Uber out and will be some new boats , cars and such. The corruption is never ending so yes I think we all know how it will end. In time someone will spend enough to fight them and it will be costly for KW.

    On a side note, part of the charm of KW is them PINK cabs.

  4. First, Uber is not Walmart. It may be a large multinational corporation but the drivers are basically self employed.

    If KW was completely open to Uber the market would only support a limited number of drivers. If there are 200 calls per day and 200 drivers nobody would make enough to survive.

    What bringing Uber to KW would do is take a lot of the profit out of being a cab driver or owning a cab company. It would put them out of business and it is that simple.

    Technology has done away with public phone booths because everyone now has a cell phone.

    With the current system the way it is the cab companies don’t have the ability to add another twenty cars and drivers for special events. If the island was flooded with Uber drivers at New Years, during Fantasy Fest, etc. it would improve public service.

    Even if the current cab companies were to become internet friendly they will never be able to offer the flexibility that Uber does. Ubers business model allows them to double or triple the number of drivers for special events.

    It is precisely what KW needs, increased service during special events.

    • Yes , actually having more rides available for big events would add safety. As far as the profit , it seeks it’s own level. I am willing to bet that a cab driver would make just as much if not more if they become Uber drivers.

    • Actually it would be easy to have more weekend and special event licenses and even easier to fill those cabs with able professional drivers.

  5. i’ll bet that once the uber company puts the cab companies out of business they will increase their rates! in fact i’ll give 2:1 odds too. 😉

    • Yes , that could happen but supply would then rise and demand would drop and the price will go down. The cabs do not need to go out of business but the rates and how much of the money the actual cab driver gets to keep might change. The city might be forced to lower the fees. Create a license for Uber and similar ride services.

      Anytime you are forced out of business by others then you likely were not providing the best service for the buck.

      If the cab companies see Uber raising rates then they can open back up.

      I think what we have here is nothing more than cab drivers worrying about having a job or one that makes them a profit every day. Rides will still be needed and that requires drivers. You are not out of work. Many places are hurt by Amazon. We buy much of our needs from Amazon and for a good reason, they are cheaper and fast delivery for prime members. The internet forces the way to do business and it drives many places to close.

      Will we continue to use cabs ? Likely yes because it is simple and not likely to save enough to care if we used Uber.

      What the city best be watching is if they legally can legally stop them. Uber can afford the fight, can KW ? This will end up in court and could cost KW millions but then they don’t seem to care about money.

      • of course jim…I was being a little tounge n cheek. uber is a different ride then cab due to the app of which is one clever mousetrap. their rates are quite competitive also..since the cars are privately owned they are clean and impecible I assume. this is not to smear the cabs I also assume they are clean too. uber is here to stay as I hear tell they are in tallihassee making changes to the mv law whereas the city will have no say as to their operations/licencing.

      • Actually they very much care about money. You might want to do some homework about recent events in the industry before you post such things.

        • cem3 well of course they do. is it any wonder their rates increase when its a crush demand time? don’t need any homework…I’m a cabby from way back and understand the transportation ‘system’ better than you think!

  6. Where were the owners at the meeting? Where were the owners at any public meeting? In fact, exactly who are the owners?

    • Jan Doleman owns 5-Sixes, Thane owns Key Lime, Star and Karen Guttman own Friendly. Some will attend the workshop, as well many, many drivers.

  7. Local can drivers pay upwards of $150 per day to lease their cabs. That’s why the rates they charge are ridiculous. The owner makes money regardless while the cabbie hustles to make a profit. Imagine if, instead of lining the pockets of the owners, cabbies could keep that money for themselves? I think we would see happy drivers and lower rates.

    • Yes, they first spend about $150 that on a slow day might take 4 hours or more before they make a dime. Because of this we tip to help them. Bottom line is we need an easy fast ride. Am sure none of the drivers will disclose how much profit they make in a typical day of 10 hours. Will assume a bit more than that 9 to 14 an hour for a Uber driver. So yes they don’t want Uber cutting into the profits. Let’s face the reality of to live even cheap in KW you need to make about $1,000 a week.
      And why are we not seeing posts from all of the drivers here ?

      Turn the cab system into something bit more fair. Create unlimited licenses at an affordable fee. Then the drivers would not need to drive 60 hours to live.
      There is room for cabs and Uber and am sure Lift is on its way to KW too.

    • These are the numbers. For forty hours a cabbie will spend around average $750 for gas ($2+ an hour), lease ($13+ an hour) and tip out to dispatch ($2+ an hour). During that period a good and experienced driver would travel around five hundred miles and gross around $1700 in sales and tips. An Uber driver would pay 25% of his gross take to the company, that’s $425, if they could do that much in sales as the rates are generally lower and there are almost no tips. Then there is the cost of gas, the car, wear and tear, maintenance and insurance. The IRS allows a 54 cents a mile write off on your taxes for just using your personal car and insurance etc for a business expense to drive to work and back (500 x .54 = $270). So if you calculated 75 cents a mile for a commercially used vehicle (there is considerably more wear, tear and maintenance involved) that must be newer and have commercial insurance 24/7 in the State of Florida, you’re looking at around $375. That is a total of $800… Where is the savings? I’ll tell you where, it is in the slashing of the drivers income! A driver that makes $1000 a week before taxes, or $800 net, where a 1 bd apt starts at $2000…. Meanwhile Uber does not want to require its drivers to have taxi licenses, city drivers permits or full time commercial insurance even when they are logged into the app to work. It is Uber that gouges the system! A multinational metacorporation that you’ll never have any say in how they operate, unlike government restricted taxi services…

      • I recall one cab driver that said on here that he was driving 10 hour days 6 days a week. From the numbers you gave us it looks like a 50 / 50 split.
        Now the real question is could a Uber driver make out better than a cab driver ? My thinking is he could buy a new car or one with low miles and likely do great even if he hands over 25%. One concern is will they be available 24 / 7 / 365.

        Bottom line is they have the right to try. Only way the win is if they have a better service and price. Ever stop and think this out ? Why the limited number of licenses ? Simple, they do not want competition. Well guess what, now you have it.

        That cab can be used for more than 1 shift. Using them numbers 1 cab could earn the owner 2 or 3 grand a week. Isn’t that a bit much ? Only justification is the high value of the license. Remove the limit and watch the cab fairs drop. Uber must fight this and win or it is out of business. I am surprise KW has not been sued.

  8. I’ve never had a dirty uber car. I’ve never met an unpleasant uber driver. I’ve never had a higher uber rate on the ride home than the ride into town. I’ve never had to wait on the curb more than a minute on uber while my friends were inside.

    I wish I could say the same about my taxi experiences.

    The idea that uber is attacking taxi drivers is preposterous. They mearly built a better mousetrap. Taxi companies left the door wide open. Uber better serve their customers by offering a more convenient and more efficient process. Customer service, I know… crazy, right?

    Evolve or die, this holds true in life and in business.

    If the taxi (or any business for that matter) industry wants to survive, clean up your act and your cabs) and don’t give your customers any reason to go elsewhere.

    I love the charm of Key West’s cabs, but treat me poorly…and I’ll go spend my money somewhere else.

  9. We always use the pink 66666. As of date we have no complaint. Yes the cars are bit old but usually we only travel 1 mile. They been clean and drivers friendly. All we want or need is a fast affordable ride from point A to B. I don’t blame the drivers for the cost , I blame the cab owner and the city of KW. Have not used Uber but some friends have. Do not know if Uber would be much cheaper if available in KW. Really , most of the time all we need is a ride from one end of Duval to the other. But we are smart and have them use Simonton as less trafic. Usually the fair is about 7 to $8 and just hand them a 10. So what would Uber charge ? We are talking KW so yes going to cost a bit more and that 1 mile is not going to happen in 2 minutes. If the state makes them legal then the game is over and we just might be seeing some cab drivers buying a car.