Cab companies see profits plummet as ride-sharing expands

Cab companies see profits plummet as ride-sharing expands

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Cory Thompson drives with Charley's Taxi, and he says the night shift used to be his bread and butter.

Now, he can go hours without a customer.

"I know I'm down 50 percent easily, 50 percent of my income," he said.

He blames his losses on ride-sharing companies, like Uber and Lyft.

The wild popularity of the companies has taken business away from traditional cab companies, which argue the ride-sharing have an unfair advantage because they have fewer regulations to contend with.

Charley's President Dale Evans said these days, between 10:30 p.m. and 5 a.m., the company has three to eight cars on the road. "Before we would have maybe 36 cars on the road," he said.

Likewise, Charley's dispatch center used to be busy at night. But now, it's quiet.

Head dispatcher Taimi Toeaina said the taxi company used to see 25 to 30 calls per hour. The number is now about three to seven.

Cab companies accuse ride-sharing drivers of camping outside bars and restaurants to solicit customers. If cabbies did that, they could be hit with a $97 ticket.

There are also complaints that Uber and Lyft drivers pick up customers from hotels and shopping centers that cab companies have exclusive rights to.

"The ride-sharing companies come in, they don't pay their share of that. They come and they take away business from the taxi drivers that are actually paying for this, indirectly," said Howard Higa, owner of TheCAB.

He said his company has lost 20 percent of its drivers since ride-sharing came to town.

Charley's has also lost staff.

"The new drivers won't go on the road because there's not enough money. So we're just depleting by attrition it's just sinking," Evans said.

Uber and Lyft, though, say they're just meeting a market need.

"Oahu has a large transportation ecosystem, and ride-sharing services like Uber provide an added choice to residents and visitors who need to move around the island efficiently," said Uber spokesman Taylor Patterson, in a statement. "With Uber, riders have access to a safe, reliable and affordable transportation option at the push of a button, connecting them to sometimes under-served areas of the city."

Timothy Burr Jr., senior public policy adviser at Lyft, said "expanding access to safe, affordable rides benefits everyone, and we're excited that the community of Oahu can rely on Lyft as their transportation solution."

Thompson, the cab driver, said he's been driving a taxi on Oahu for 20 years.

Like other drivers with Charley's and TheCAB, he is an independent contractor. He can't count on an hourly wage, and now the losses are crippling.

"I get maybe one or two 'flag downs' a night, which is down by about 15 to 20 easily," he said.

He can make up the money he's losing, but that means spending extra hours or days behind the wheel.

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