“Taxi, this is the area where all the action is”, said Urban Transport UK’s Jonathan Bray, opening UITP’s International Taxi Seminar ‘The role of taxis in the future of digital urban mobility’ in London on December 7 and 8.
“Taxis touch many public policies: air quality, congestion, urban (public) mobility, plus the economic inclusion of black and minority workers. Arguments are heated because they touch so many lives. We must work towards a uniform strategic approach. For that we must know what’s going on elsewhere.”
Mohamed Mezgani seems to know. The new Secretary-General of the world’s largest public transport association, outlined that this 4th seminar of the Taxi Platform included 23 countries and had drawn a 100 attendees to London. “Why London? Because London’s taxis are a reference point. Transport for London covers all regulatory areas of London’s public transport.”
UITP’s platform is a global working group with 40 members: operators, TNC’s and regulators. “Taxi is an essential element in today’s multi-modal market, sometimes the only mode often the missing link. Now, in the digital revolution there are new players and cities considering new mobility options. TNC’s encouraged the taxi sector to modernize its services. The taxi is also an important link in packages of Mobility as a Service (MaaS).”
The UITP is busily widening its public transport role: before the conference it announced new members for its special ‘subsection’ ‘Digital Platforms’ which will include everything from online journey planning services to e-taxi apps. Launching members are Uber, Grab, Ola and Russia’s Yandex. Some of these also partnered with IRU on its UpTop platform. Other new members include Door2Door, Citymapper, Moovel, Via, 99, and Upstream. By opening to these new platforms, the UITP wants to ensure that everyone’s reading from the same page. At the same time, the Taxi Platform’s energetic role seems to heat up competition with IRU, traditionally the reference point for the taxi industry.
On January 1 London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone will start: no more diesel taxis will be licensed. In a few year’s time PHV’s will also have to switch to cleaner fuels. In Central London taxis produce 60% of NoX. Companies like LEVC (with the electric range-extended TX) and Dynamo (with a full-electric Nissan NV200) are ready to supply London’s market.
London also wants to continue as “a safe, modern and two-tier top industry in which safety is paramount,” said Helen Jenkinson (Transport for London). “We are proud of our black taxis and The Knowledge, although since 1998 they (22.000 taxis and 24.000 drivers) have been joined by 88.000 PHV’s and 116.000 drivers.”
Consultant Matt Clark outlined how taxi and PHV trips have changed over the years: taxi trips have fallen from 250.000 trips a day to 110.000; PHV-trips went up from 150.000/day to 300.000. Taxi trips have gone down, fares went up, but generally income is down. Taxi trips are also shorter (2,9 to 2,6 miles) and PHV-trips longer (5,8 to 8,8 miles). Taxi-hailing remains around 50%, app-work had gone up from 5 to 13% but work from the rank is dropping (34% to 27%). The main question in the following Q&A: Does a separation between taxi and PHV still make sense?
Norwegian economist Jørgen Aarhaug – who recently worked on the IRU-report ‘Taxi of the Future’ – explained that at the same time a modal convergence, a modal divergence and a multi-modal approach are taking place. For instance shared taxis and demand-responsive buses besides new in-between modes, free floating cars plus a bundling of modality options in MaaS: “Everything becomes more taxi-like.” New regulatory frameworks should be the response to that.
UITP’s Kaan Yildizgoz explained how every part of the world applies its own new (TNC-)approach: most stringent anti-TNC’s are the Latin-American countries, the USA, Singapore, China, India and Australia go for a new approach. South-East Asia (with the excellent example of Malaysia, which totally changed its legislation) goes for a new environment, whereas the EU, Taiwan and Japan do not go for new regulation. Many cities (Sao Paolo, Montreal) charge TNC’s per ride or per km.
Mike Galvin (Karhoo) described the present situation as ‘The perfect storm’ – everyone gets to deal with it. Galvin described 37 years of constant change and innovation. “It’s a daily onslaught. No single day is the same and it’s a Brave New World. Who are the winners and losers? Where do I fit in? It’s not just about IT and it will affect lots of people. And finally: what’s in it for me? Do users still want taxis and PHV? Are they willing to pay or is it just about promocodes?” To survive and have a thriving business, Galvin outlined the need for consolidation, cooperation and collaboration. “Often you can’t serve all your clients. Pass some business to a colleague and give the client the best possible service. There is a change in our culture, a search for more equilibrium. But there will be no proper competition until venture capitalists stop filling the pockets of TNC’s so that they can charge ludicrously low fares.” (Wim Faber)
- Mohamed Mezgani, UITP’s new Secretary-General: “Taxi is an essential element in today’s multi-modal market, sometimes the only mode often the missing link.”