After years of driver fee hikes by major cab companies and increasing pressure from ride sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft, over 400 cab drivers in Austin decided to take a stand. In 2014, the Taxi Drivers Alliance of Austin, a local association of taxi drivers, successfully protested against dramatic rate increases from the three major cab companies that dominated the market.
However, the pressure of ride-sharing apps continued to escalate, particularly due to the lack of restrictions placed on these companies. Earlier this year, taxi drivers and their allies worked with the city council to make ride sharing companies subject to the same passenger safety and security requirements as traditional firms, making fingerprinting and driver background checks mandatory. Rather than meet such requirements, Uber and Lyft instead decided to leave the city.
The Alliance took advantage of the new gap in the market to create “ATX Co-op Taxis”. This co-operative has 360 taxi drivers as its member-owners, making it the fourth largest cab company in the city of Austin, just two months after its creation. ATX Co-op taxis enables cab drivers to control their wages and working conditions. ATX Co-op taxis reduced driver’s weekly fees to $131 versus $251- $315 of other cab companies. This allows the drivers to offer lower fares and better service to their customers.
The co-op has also been uniquely able to provide improved service to marginalised communities which have been previously ignored by major cab companies and ride-sharing apps. This has included senior citizens, people with disabilities, those needing ADA accessibility, and other areas which have been under-served by these companies. The co-op has already moved to contribute to the well-being of their communities and encouraged a surge in ride-hail companies’ success. Austin now joins four other American cities, including Philadelphia, Denver, Alexandria, and Madison as cities with cab co-ops.
The movement of cab co-operatives is quickly picking up speed, advocating for lower fares, better service, and greater communal awareness. Several cab co-ops have sprouted across the UK, in Edinburgh and Alexandria, Scotland.
It’s time for cab co-operatives to find their place in the UK. Cab co-operatives would greatly benefit the people of the United Kingdom, providing an attractive alternative to the ride sharing status quo. The cab co-operatives not only benefit the cab driving community, but have effectively provided necessary services to those communities which are often marginalised through targeted programs, high quality service, and lower rates.