NJ taxi companies: Uber is going to put us out of business
It's not just city cabs having trouble keeping up with their latest competition: Jersey Shore taxi services say they're taking a back seat to apps like Uber and Lyft
The accessibility of having transportation at your fingertips through a smart phone app is making it difficult for taxi services in Monmouth and Ocean Counties to compete with Uber, especially when it comes to catering to business during the night, representatives of the cab companies say.
"Part of our business is bar transportation and shore transportation. They now do it, so they're probably taking about 30 percent of the night business," said Ed Rite, manager of Ace Taxi in Brick Township. "Most of the people that come down from North Jersey all have Uber in their phone. Uber is in every iPhone now, so they just hit the Uber account and they get an Uber driver."
Rite believes the impact from Uber on night business is as high as 50 percent for some cab companies in Ocean County. He said Uber was running an ad that stated it had answered 10,000 local calls during July through September.
"So, that was right here in the Ocean County area," Rite said. He added. "That's taking from every cab company here. There's not a cab company in Ocean County that can even think of handling 10,000 calls."
That sentiment was echoed by Anthony Arico, a shift manager at Squan Taxi in Manasquan who has been driving a cab for five years.
"They're killing everybody out there, moneywise," Arico said. "We definitely lost a lot of business due to them." Arico added, "The summer after (superstorm) Sandy was better than what we did this past summer."
Arico said he has observed mostly college kids, especially those leaving the bars at 2 a.m., bypassing cabs for Uber drivers instead.
"When they come out of the bars, they just come right by the cabs and just sit there and wait for Uber," Arico said. He added, "It's not even like they're paying cheaper prices."
Proposed legislation would subject companies like Uber to similar regulations to those in effect for taxi companies — drivers would be subject to background checks, and stricter insurance and inspection requirements. Taxi companies are also currently subject to licensing fees that don't apply to Uber.
But such legislation has only cleared a committee vote in the Assembly and hasn't moved in the state Senate at all. Arico and Rite said the disparity is a big issue.
Rite said his company is working on solutions and strategies to attract customers, but he said some matters are out of cab companies' control and "unfair" when it comes to insurance regulations, and fees for background checks and municipal licenses.
Rite believes competition from Uber will eventually force taxi companies to go out of business.
"It's absolutely going to affect the taxi business in the whole entire state," he said.
In a statement, Uber New Jersey said the competition is healthy, and "creates better options for riders and drivers alike.
"New Jerseyans are turning to Uber because we’re offering a flexible way to earn income and a safe, reliable way to get from A to B," the statement said. "Today, more than 13,000 New Jersey residents drive with Uber and hundreds of thousands of riders take a trip each month."