Ride-sharing services, like Uber, and taxi-hailing apps show us how increased connectivity shapes the behaviour of citizens. This has an impact on the mobility patterns of people, vibrancy of the city, on job opportunities, job efficiency and convenience. Two recent quotes on this matter:
“How Uber Is Changing Night Life in Los Angeles”, From the NY Times:
…“It became very clear to me that I could use Uber and have the kind of life I wanted,” he said. “I feel like I found a way to take the best parts of my New York lifestyle, and incorporate them in L.A.”
Mr. O’Connell is part of a growing contingent of urbanites who have made Ubering (it’s as much a verb as “Googling”) an indispensable part of their day and especially their night life. Untethered from their vehicles, Angelenos are suddenly free to drink, party and walk places. Even as their business models are evolving, these ride-sharing services, which include Lyft, Sidecar and others, have upended the social habits of the area, and rallied its residents to be more peripatetic. A night out in Los Angeles used to involve negotiating parking, beating traffic and picking a designated driver. Excursions from one end to the other — say, from the oceanfront city of Santa Monica to the trendy Silver Lake neighborhood on the eastern side — had to be planned and timed with military precision, lest they spiral into a three-hour commute. More often than not, they were simply avoided.
“Before Uber was a thing, I would rarely go to Hollywood,” said Drew Heitzler, an artist who lives in Venice, a potentially treacherous drive away. “The prospect of going to Hollywood on a weekend night, if I was invited to a party or an art event, it just wouldn’t happen. I would just stay home.”
Now Mr. Heitzler, 42, uses the ride-sharing app at least weekly, gladly leaving his car behind when he socializes. “In Los Angeles, you have the ubiquitous D.U.I. checkpoints everywhere,” he said. “If you’re going to go to a party, you either don’t drink or you Uber there and Uber back, and problem solved.”….
‘Cab Fair’, From the Economist:
RU LI is typical of many Beijing taxi drivers these days—relaxed, smiling and, at rush hour on a Friday afternoon, politely declining to pick up passengers from the street. He is waiting by a mall in central Beijing for a customer he has connected with using Didi Dache, China’s leading taxi-hailing app. Across the street are two other taxis that have also arranged pick-ups using the same app.
Not long ago taking a taxi in Beijing was unpleasant for customer and driver alike. Passengers hunted desperately for cabs. Drivers, angry at working conditions and low fares, waved them away. The vague threat of a formal strike loomed and, before smartphones, might have happened.
Today the experience is transformed. Taxi-hailing apps have given drivers more control, as the apps match drivers with passengers, who can offer a tip as an incentive. The government stepped in, too: last year Beijing authorities raised the minimum fare by 30% to 13 yuan ($2.10), the first increase in a decade.
Like most drivers Mr Ru, who is 32, also uses the app Kuaidi Dache (which means “Quickly Hail a Taxi”), owned by Alibaba, an internet conglomerate. (Didi Dache, owned by Tencent, another conglomerate, means “Honk, Honk, Hail a Taxi”.) Owing to fierce competition, the rival apps offer subsidies to drivers as well as customers, who pay for the ride through their smartphones. The two apps each have more than 100m registered users and, at the end of March, claimed a combined 11m daily orders for taxis. Unlike apps in the West such as Uber, which use a network of drivers in competition with taxi firms, Chinese apps work in co-operation with them.
Thanks to the apps and to the rise in cab fares, Mr Ru says that, instead of 12-hour workdays and only a few days off each month, he now works ten hours a day, five days a week, for the same money—about 5,000 yuan ($800) a month…
Picture: Emily Berl for the New York Times
Sources: New York Times, the Economist