Jan 082016

In San Francisco, the Yellow Cab Company is filing for bankruptcy in the face of mounting insurance costs and competition from services like Uber and Lyft.

For most of the Twentieth Century, having a government controlled market was good for cab companies and those owning the rights to own taxis. In most places though it wasn’t good for drivers and passengers however as wages fell along with the quality the service.

In most cities, the taxi operators didn’t care as their industry was protected and customers didn’t have much choice. The problem was compounded by supine regulators who saw protecting the interests of industry incumbents as taking precedence over making sure operators provided a safe, reliable service.

With the arrival of Uber, this changed and passengers started voting with their wallets. Interestingly, despite Uber X and Uber Pool being illegal in most place, regulators and their political masters found public opinion was firmly against the taxi companies and owners who’d exploited them for so long.

To the horror of the taxi operators, they found the community and the market had shifted against them leaving them exposed to changes they had never expected. Now operators like San Francisco’s Yellow Cabs are paying the price for not focusing on providing a decent service.

For other industries, particularly those which have some sort of barrier to entry through government regulation, the taxi industry’s woes are an important lesson – focusing on service is the key to staying in business, not relying on keeping competitors out.

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