'It's war': San Francisco cab driver describes competing with Uber, Lyft

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In the past decade, San Francisco-based companies like Uber and Lyft have changed the way transportation works both here and around the world. They've created new advantages and challenges, and have crippled the taxi industry.

There are fewer than 2,000 cabs in San Francisco. On an average weekday, officials say more than twice as many vehicles from ride-booking services are operating on city streets.

COMMUTE CHALLENGE: Taxi vs rideshare

ABC7 News spent the day with a taxi driver to find out how the rise of the ride-share culture is affecting him.

"Is this war?" we asked cab driver Corey Lamb.

"Yes. It's war," Lamb said.

"You're a tribe?" we asked.

"We are," said Lamb, a married father of two and, for 13 years, a Flywheel taxi driver specializing in transporting passengers with special needs. It's a niche, or maybe a foxhole against an overwhelming army of rideshare drivers. This battlefield is a place of asphalt, alleys, alliances.

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"My personal belief is that Uber and Lyft are here to stomp the taxis out, and then they raise their prices," said Lamb. "Then the consumers will pay."

He compares it to Walmart, choking out the small businesses in communities. Like many taxi drivers, whom he describes as "working poor," Lamb doesn't like losing to ride-hailing services, whose drivers he calls "amateurs." He said these out-of-towners simply signed up, got on an app and started clogging streets and collecting the spoils by a different set of rules.

"We taxi drivers have been doing this a very, very long time and feel slighted that practically anyone can get in a car and pick up people," said Lamb.

"Is slighted the proper word?" we asked.

"Absolutely," he said.

"What will make this a level playing field?"

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"Actual regulations as to who can drive, have drug testing, all the things that taxis have. Do rideshares have $9 million in insurance?" he said.

In spite of those apparent advantages, companies like Lyft and Uber are winning the numbers battle.

"Are you obsolete?" we asked.

"I don't think so. We provide a service," Lamb said.

"You talk like the Dutch boy with his finger in the dam," we said.

"I might be. City government needs to be the Dutch boy with those regulations," Lamb said. But, it's been a losing battle. "When the limousines began disappearing and cars with happy moustaches replaced them in about 2011, I knew we were in trouble."

BUILDING A BETTER BAY AREA: Rideshare realities

So says the taxi driver making a last stand on four wheels and contested streets.

If taxis received medals instead of formerly precious medallions, we might find one here.

"Was this ever an honorable profession?" we asked.

"Yes."

"Still?"

"It's getting hard," Lamb said.

War is hell.

See full coverage on ridshare realities here, and more stories and videos about Building a Better Bay Area here.
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