By Jennifer Maerz
Tucked into an Examiner story about the head of the San Francisco taxi industry retiring was a depressing quote from DeSoto Cab Co. predicting the death of taxis in this city within the next year and a half. The main piece was focused on Chris Hayashi, who is stepping down from her gig this month after leading the local taxi industry through one of the most challenging times in this city's history due to the emergence of ride share apps like Lyft and Uber. "Here I am, trying to steer the Titanic ... We were about to clear, and all of a sudden here comes billions of dollars of venture capital for people who are willing to break every law in the book," Hayashi told The Examiner. The profile on Hayashi is a great read – but for those not following cabbie politics, the most jarring quote came from the head of DeSoto.
"DeSoto Cab Co. president Hansu Kim, who agreed that Hayashi shepherded the industry through some of its most trying times, said that with Uber, Lyft and the like, he would be surprised if the cab industry survives another 18 months in The City," reports The Examiner.
It seems crazy that a whole industry would disappear in under two years, although taxi companies remain too far behind the curve when it comes to adapting to consumer needs. When you call in a ride, customer service still harkens back to a frustrating era when companies could afford to leave riders hanging. Twice last month when I called cabs, the dispatchers I spoke with could not give two fucks about their jobs – they had me on hold forever, hung up before I could get an estimated wait time, and left me wondering whether my request was put out there at all. I mean, with service like that, why bother? The answer is that when you hail a cab, there still are plenty of memorable drivers (like this guy) out there, no to mention no surge charges from taxi companies.
My hope is that the cab industry learns, like other industries before it, that it doesn't have to let the startups crush it out of business. A refocus on the needs of customers in this city would go a long way to extending the life of taxi companies here beyond those 18 months.
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