- Associated Press - Saturday, February 4, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The taxi is going the way of the horse buggy in Lincoln.

According to statistics compiled by the state’s Public Service Commission, the numbers of taxis, drivers and rides have plummeted over the past six years in the Capital City while generally growing in Omaha and other parts of the state.

The number of quarterly cab rides in Lincoln peaked at about 54,700 in the three-month period ending Nov. 30, 2010, the Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/2kn0Ne8 ) reported.

Since then, numbers have declined dramatically, bottoming out at about 6,800 rides in the quarter that ended May 31, 2016.

At the same time, the number of cab rides elsewhere has grown. During that same time frame, Omaha’s quarterly numbers grew from just under 90,000 to more than 153,000. The number of rides in the rest of the state grew from around 19,000 to more than 25,500.

The same trend holds for the number of registered cabs and drivers in service.

In Lincoln, the number of cabs in service has fallen from 40 to 17, and the number of drivers has dropped from 83 to 19, according to the PSC report. Meanwhile, the number of cabs and drivers in Omaha has stayed steady at around 190 while both numbers have grown considerably in other areas of Nebraska.

Because the trend predates the arrival of ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft by several years, the PSC said in the report that the decline likely is “due to some other factor.”

Local cab drivers disagree.

“It’s really obvious to any driver that since Uber and Lfyt came in that business has gone down,” said Bill Mulloy, a cab driver for Happy Cab.

Mulloy estimated that the average driver has seen earnings decline by 30 percent to 50 percent in the past couple of years.

Pete Loofe, who drives for Leisure Taxi, agreed.

“In the two years since Uber and Lyft have come to town, I’ve lost 45-50 percent of my business,” he said.

Uber and Lyft both started operating in Lincoln in 2014 and caused controversy because they did not have permission from the Public Service Commission.

The state Legislature passed a law in 2015 allowing them to operate legally in the state, under the regulation of the PSC, but the law mostly pertains to the companies themselves, not the individual drivers.

Loofe said that’s unfair. Cab drivers have to get a license, have their vehicles inspected — even have a physical done every three years.

“Uber and Lyft (drivers) do none of this,” he said.

Loofe also complained that Uber and Lyft drivers routinely do things they are not allowed to do, including soliciting riders outside their apps for cash fares and parking in taxi-only lanes downtown and at the airport.

The PSC noted in its report that it has gotten two informal complaints and several tips about such behavior.

PSC Director Jamie Reyes said the complaints are a concern.

“We do want to ensure they are following the rules,” Reyes said.

As for what is causing the drop in taxi use in Lincoln, Reyes said she didn’t know for sure and didn’t want to speculate.

Though the report shows cab rides have been dropping in Lincoln since 2010, the trend has seemed to have gotten worse since Uber and Lyft came to town.

Since the second half of 2015, when Uber and Lyft stated operating legally in Nebraska, cab rides in Lincoln have fallen by almost two-thirds, from around 20,000 per quarter to less than 7,000.

According to the report, the PSC was able to get data from 20 of the 23 taxi companies operating in the state, although Reyes said one of the companies that did not provide data, which she declined to name, is one of the companies that operate in Lincoln.

“I would think having that company’s information could have an effect (on the report),” she said. “I’m not sure what it would be.”

Uber and Lyft did not respond to requests for comment.


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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