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Uber, lyft and other taxis

Cities Made Millions Selling Taxi Medallions, Now Drivers Are Paying the Price

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Yana Kiziryan has two children. The youngest, Eddy, looks just like his cab-driving grandfather, Edward Agababian.

Edward drove a taxi in San Francisco. He loved it and dreamed of owning a medallion. These little tin permits used to be awarded on seniority. But to try to balance its transportation budget after the 2008 financial crisis, San Francisco started selling the medallions for 250,000 dollars a pop.

This was still a good deal. With a medallion, drivers could make between 5 and 7 grand a month. So Edward took out a loan and bought one.

“He thought if anything ever happens to me,” Yana says, “if I were to die, the family would be set. It was his insurance plan and his retirement plan.”

Taxi medallions used to be a great investment for cab drivers all over the U.S. Over a dozen cities sold these permits to operate cabs. Medallion values rose quickly, sometimes doubling in just a few years to hundreds of thousands or even over a million dollars, in the case of New York City.
Then the ride-share companies, Lyft and Uber, came along. They operated without medallions or a cap on how many vehicles they could put on the road. The two companies used their venture capital to grow quickly and flood the streets with cars.

Medallion prices plummeted. In New York City they fell from around $1.3 million to around $160,000. In Philadelphia they dropped from a high of $545,000 to $10,000. Similar devaluations struck in every other city with monetized medallions. Thousands of medallion holders each lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in equity.

The supply of Ubers and Lyfts on the road also pushed down prices of rides and earnings for drivers of all kinds, whether they be in Ubers, Lyfts, or taxis. The pressure has taken its toll on workers in the industry. Amid the medallion meltdown, seven drivers in New York City alone have committed suicide.

He was just 59 years old

Edward’s income plummeted along with everyone else’s. His blood pressure began to go up. He started gaining weight.

“[My dad] became increasingly restless and nervous,” Yana says. “There were months were they didn’t have quite enough to make all their bills.” Sometimes she had to chip in to help out her parents. Yana said Edward even signed up to drive Uber and Lyft, just to try and get some extra rides.

About two years ago, Yana and her whole family left for a short trip to the East Coast. Edward decided to stay home and drive. He went to the airport, like he did every day. There were so few fares at that point, drivers could sit for hours in their car waiting for a passenger. That’s where Edward’s friends found him.

“His friends at the airport right away noticed something was wrong,” Yana says. “They looked at him and he was green.” Edward said he wanted to go home. “They were like, ‘no’,” Yana says. “‘You’re going to the hospital.'”
An ambulance came and rushed him to the hospital. Edward’s aorta had torn. He was bleeding internally. Soon after getting to the hospital, he passed away.

“The doctor told us that when he got to the hospital, they asked him if he wanted to call his family,” Yana says, “and apparently he said, ‘I don’t want to make them nervous.’ And so we didn’t even get to say goodbye.”

Edward was just 59 years old when he died.

A frozen market

The market for taxi medallions in San Francisco is now totally frozen. No one has bought or sold one in over two years. The city recently held a meeting with drivers to talk with them about potential changes to the taxi industry — things like allowing corporations to buy medallions, which the city hopes would encourage sales.

Cab drivers who attended the meeting were supposed to stick up post-it notes with their comments on posters with the proposed reform. Almost all of the notes said the exact same thing: Please buy back our medallions. This is all that most drivers want.
At the meeting, drivers like Inder Jitghotra and Magdi Yousef spoke about how the medallion was impacting their lives. Inder’s family bought six medallions. “We are under water,” he said, “Some family members are going to file for bankruptcy. We have no other option.” “I already suffered two heart attack[s],” Yousef said, “I feel like I am dying. This medallion is killing me slowly.”

Around 700 drivers in San Francisco bought medallions, making the city about 63 million dollars. Over 150 drivers have defaulted on these now toxic assets.

Kate Toran manages the taxi program for the city. “If I had a magic wand and could say this could all go away of course I would,” she says, “Who wouldn’t want do that?”

The city is considering a few changes to thaw the medallion market, but unlike New York City, San Francisco has not put a cap on the number of Lyfts and Ubers. The city is also not talking about buying back the medallions, which Toran estimates would cost 160 million dollars.

“That’s not on the list of recommendations at this point,” Toran says, “I think that’s unlikely.”

After Edward’s death, Yana Kiziryan’s family was still plagued by their medallion. No one wanted to buy it from them. So they defaulted on the loan and took a massive hit on their credit.

Even though it is too late for her father, Yana says she wants the city do something for the other drivers. Many are still out on the road just trying to break even on the little pieces of tin they invested their lives in.

Source: https://www.npr.org/2018/10/15/656595597/cities-made-millions-selling-taxi-medallions-now-drivers-are-paying-the-price

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Uber, lyft and other taxis

Lyft Is Another Step Closer to Driverless Ridesharing

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Ridesharing company Lyft (NASDAQ: LYFT) inched a little bit closer toward self-driving ridesharing last week when it said in a blog post that it’s adding Chrysler Pacifica hybrids to its autonomous vehicle (AV) testing fleet and opening a new self-driving vehicle test facility.

The new facility, located in East Palo Alto, California, will allow the company to increase the number of AV tests it can run. It will also let the company test how the systems do with different road configurations, including intersections, merging lanes, traffic lights, and similar challenges. The company said in the post that the new facility will let Lyft “further accelerate the speed of innovation.”

Lyft says that it’s driving four times more autonomous miles per quarter than it was just six months ago and has about 400 employees worldwide working on self-driving tech. That figure is likely to expand, considering that Lyft has more than 40 autonomous vehicle job openings listed on its website.

In addition to the new facility, Lyft said that it’s adding Pacifica minivans to its AV fleet, which is the same vehicle that Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving car company, uses for its public self-driving ridesharing project and AV tests. Lyft said that, “The minivan’s size and functionality provide our team with significant flexibility to experiment with the self-driving rideshare experience.”

Why does all this matter for Lyft’s autonomous-vehicle future? Because to have a successful, public self-driving ridesharing fleet in the coming years, Lyft needs to lay the groundwork right now.

Isn’t Lyft already doing AV testing?

Lyft is, of course, already working on AV testing. The company’s original self-driving test facility has been up and running since early 2018. The company also started a partnership with Waymo earlier this year to test autonomous ridesharing. Additionally, Lyft also works with Aptiv, an AV tech company, and together they’ve created “the largest publicly available commercial self-driving program in the country” and have completed more than 75,000 rides through the partnership.

But the recent announcements by Lyft show that the company is taking its AV focus a bit further. The Pacifica minivans have been used by Waymo’s AV ridesharing program in Phoenix for more than a year now, making them a proven choice for shuttling around ride-hailing passengers. Lyft may not be ready to launch a wide-scale autonomous ridesharing service just yet, but testing out these vehicles likely means that it’s moving past earlier stages of AV testing and is now looking at how its next-generation self-driving tech can handle new vehicles.

Why this matters for Lyft

Lyft and other ride-hailing companies, including Uber, are keeping a close eye on self-driving developments and testing out the technologies themselves because it could eventually become an integral part of their business model. Research from Intel predicts that the AV ridesharing market could be worth $3.7 trillion by 2050.

Additionally, as regulations surrounding ridesharing drivers continue to increase, Lyft is likely looking to AVs to eventually replace some human drivers. Just a few months ago, the state of California introduced a bill that could pave the way for independent contractors, including Lyft’s drivers, to be reclassified as employees. If a version of the bill becomes law and other states follow California’s lead, it could significantly increase operating costs for Lyft. That could be bad news for the company, which is unprofitable right now and hoping to be in the black just two years from now.

While Lyft’s announcements may not seem all that significant right now, investors should know that these baby steps moving the company closer to AV ridesharing could have huge results in the coming years. For now, investors should be pleased that Lyft is beefing up its own AV testing. Each move the company makes now means that it’ll be much more ready for a self-driving ridesharing future.

Source www.nasdaq.com

By Chris Neiger

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Uber, lyft and other taxis

Uber fined $650 million by New Jersey over driver classification

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New Jersey is the latest state to say Uber’s drivers should be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. The state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development said that because of this misclassification, the ride-hailing company owes it roughly $650 million in unemployment taxes and disability insurance, according to Bloomberg Law.

The Department of Labor reportedly has been trying to get unpaid employment taxes from Uber going back as far as 2015, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg Law. It said the company owed the state $523 million in overdue taxes along with another $119 million in interest and penalties for the last four years. Uber disputes these findings.

“We are challenging this preliminary but incorrect determination,” an Uber spokesman said in an email. “Because drivers are independent contractors in New Jersey and elsewhere.”

Driver classification is an issue that government regulators have been taking a closer look at over the past year. California passed a law in September that could require Uber and other on-demand companies to reclassify their drivers as employees instead of independent contractors. The law is set to go into effect Jan. 1. New York, Oregon and Washington state have considered similar legislation.

Uber, Lyft and several other tech companies have vowed to fight the California law, collectively putting more than $90 million behind a ballot initiative that’ll take the issue to voters next November. Many drivers have said this move is a slap in the face as they struggle to earn a living wage.

Uber’s and Lyft’s business models depend on bringing aboard hundreds of thousands of independent contractors, whose labor is typically cheaper than that of employees. That’s because Uber and Lyft drivers supply and maintain their own cars and also pay for their own health care and benefits, such as sick days or overtime pay.New Jersey is the latest state to say Uber’s drivers should be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. The state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development said that because of this misclassification, the ride-hailing company owes it roughly $650 million in unemployment taxes and disability insurance, according to Bloomberg Law.

The Department of Labor reportedly has been trying to get unpaid employment taxes from Uber going back as far as 2015, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg Law. It said the company owed the state $523 million in overdue taxes along with another $119 million in interest and penalties for the last four years. Uber disputes these findings.

“We are challenging this preliminary but incorrect determination,” an Uber spokesman said in an email. “Because drivers are independent contractors in New Jersey and elsewhere.”

Driver classification is an issue that government regulators have been taking a closer look at over the past year. California passed a law in September that could require Uber and other on-demand companies to reclassify their drivers as employees instead of independent contractors. The law is set to go into effect Jan. 1. New York, Oregon and Washington state have considered similar legislation.

Uber, Lyft and several other tech companies have vowed to fight the California law, collectively putting more than $90 million behind a ballot initiative that’ll take the issue to voters next November. Many drivers have said this move is a slap in the face as they struggle to earn a living wage.

Uber’s and Lyft’s business models depend on bringing aboard hundreds of thousands of independent contractors, whose labor is typically cheaper than that of employees. That’s because Uber and Lyft drivers supply and maintain their own cars and also pay for their own health care and benefits, such as sick days or overtime pay.

 

“New Jersey is sending a message that the state’s labor laws aren’t dictated by corporations,” Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said in a statement. “It’s a stinging rebuke of the architects of the gig economy, and we hope it permeates across other sectors.”

Even if Uber’s drivers were determined to be employees rather than independent contractors, Uber said the $650 million New Jersey tax fine would be too high — particularly if it’s based on what the company has earned in the state. Uber didn’t disclose the revenue it generated in New Jersey over the past four years, but its combined revenue for all the markets where it operated in 2018 was $11.3 billion.

 

 

 

Source www.cnet.com

By Dara Kerr

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Uber, lyft and other taxis

Adams Clinical removes hurdle to clinical trial participation

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How Adams Clinical increased retention and streamlined operations by switching to Uber.

One of the hardest parts of conducting a clinical trial is identifying willing participants. Once a participant is identified, strict qualifications and an often-lengthy time commitment limits who can participate, and a lack of access to transportation can make it difficult for participants to commit to and complete the study. To help improve recruitment and retention rates, Adams Clinical offered taxi rides to their participants. However, this solution became a burden on operational efficiency since taxis were only accessible to participants who lived close by and required the staff to pay at the end of each ride.

Finding the perfect transportation solution with Uber Health

To expand their transportation offering, Adams Clinical became an early beta partner with Uber in 2016. The team started using Uber’s web dashboard to arrange and pay for rides for participants with just a few clicks. Over the three years of this partnership, the switch to Uber Health simplified operational management, while reducing time spent on recruitment with increased retention rates. The easy-to-use Uber Health dashboard tracked all the rides and processed payments from one centralized interface, allowing the staff to arrange rides without the hassle of paying at the end of each trip. This flexibility, plus the extensive reach of Uber driver-partners in the Boston area, provided Adams Clinical with the transportation solution needed to successfully manage their participants in need of rides—which removed the headache from recruiting and retaining their study participants.

The result: Improved retention rates, simplified financial records, and an overall lift in team morale

By teaming with Uber Health, Adams Clinical enjoys a number of key benefits including:

• Expanded Recruitment—Using Uber Health cut down the length of enrollment by providing a larger pool to recruit from, resulting in a 5 to 10 percent reduction in recruitment time over the last two years. 

• Centralized Billing—All rides are charged to one company credit card, which is then processed at the end of each month to streamline the amount of administrative effort required.

• Reliable Service—Each ride is tracked in the dashboard so the team knows when the participant will be arriving to help keep the rest of the study on schedule.

• Improved Retention—In the first two years of the partnership with Uber, Adams Clinical estimated up to 20 percent fewer people dropped out of a trial when transportation was arranged to and from the clinic.

• Financial Accountability—Details for each ride are available in the dashboard, and can be downloaded to a spreadsheet, offering convenient management with trial-specific reporting per participant.

• Easy to Use—Using Uber Health has been easy for both staff and participants, even among populations without smartphones or passengers new to Uber.

 

by Kendall Brown

Source uber.com

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