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Uber services suspended in Barcelona (bbc.com)
35 points by ZeljkoS 18 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 63 comments



Uber is definitely not perfect as a business but the taxi companies are horrible all over the place. If taxi companies would just enter the 21st century, I would maybe never use Uber but the thing is, they don't. We see a LOT of rivaling apps by/for the taxi companies or just by a regional company because they don't want to give their money to a US company, but most of them are absolutely awful. The ones I tried in Barcelona were unusable, unreliable and just generally crap (disclaimer; I did not try Cabify yet). There are many in many countries but most of them, especially if they are created by a cap company, let you enter all kinds of info only to get to a screen says 'when do you need your ride?' and you can pick 24 hous from now or more. What is that? The GPS/Map feature looks generally untested and not working or not even there.

Besides the apps, most cabs are far more crappy than the Uber cars. I feel unsafe in a lot of them even though the cab companies insist they conform better to safety regulations; in Thailand, China or Hong Kong, cabs are mostly such garbage; smelly, usually missing seat belts, horrible suspension, drivers rude and not very good. Why would you go with them if there is an alternative? (Having said that, Barcelona is a notable exception; the cabs I was in seemed new and clean and the drivers friendly; not so in Malaga, Madrid or Faro for instance).

Then there is pricing; in a lot of places cabs are slightly cheaper for short distances than Uber, but long distance... I have had quotes of 400 GBP for a cab (and multiple companies) vs < 100 GBP for Uber for long distance.

If they would up their game instead of just whine and long for the olden days, then I would use them instead of Uber, but I cannot see it happen soon.


Traditional taxi services are horrible all over the world, I don't think a lot of people will dispute that.

The problem with things such as Uber, and the "gig economy" in general, is that they provide a better service by condemning the people who provide it to an unstable and undignified life. The new underclass, the one that lives "below the API", is denied the opportunity to live something remotely approaching a fulfilling existence. The more this underclass grows (and it is growing), the worse society becomes. This social cost is not worth more convenient services. There has to be a better way. Taxis should get their act together, but not by being forced to compete with those who sidestep the laws that were democratically enacted to preserve human dignity, and to give the less privileged opportunities to improve their situation.


> give the less privileged opportunities to improve their situation.

Isn’t that exactly what the gig economy does? What would Uber drivers be doing if uber ceased to exist? Why aren’t they doing that now?


> Isn’t that exactly what the gig economy does?

No. Inequality is increasing every year.

> What would Uber drivers be doing if uber ceased to exist?

Depends on the reason for Uber ceasing to exist. If Uber went bankrupt, they would probably be riding a bike to deliver food in big cities or being micromanaged by computer programs for 12 hours at a time in some warehouse, being cogs in a machine that provides outstanding customer service to those lucky enough to be able to live in less dystopic conditions.

In a scenario where big companies and rich people are finally forced to pay their taxes and respect human rights, they might be applying for stable jobs as the baby boomers once did, or taking advantage of grants (that would become possible because of said taxation) to further their education. They might be engaged in something meaningful that improves our collective condition, instead of helping make some of us a bit more comfortable while we deplete our natural resources and destroy our own habitat.


> Inequality is increasing every year.

This is a non sequitur. Inequality doesn’t need to go down for workers to get better living conditions.

> they would probably be riding a bike to deliver food [...] or being micromanaged by computer programs [...], being cogs in a machine [...]

So Uber does make their life better.

> In a scenario where big companies and rich people are finally forced to pay their taxes and respect human rights

How much money should Uber give to politicians to spend inneficiently or to be lost in corruption before you consider them to be respecting human rights?

> They might be engaged in something meaningful that improves our collective condition

Providing comfort is a service that improves our collective condition.


> This is a non sequitur. Inequality doesn’t need to go down for workers to get better living conditions.

Even if this was true, and there is a mountain of empirical data suggesting it isn't, do you really believe inequality can just keep increasing and everything will be fine?

> So Uber does make their life better.

Well, Uber drivers are cogs in a machine and micromanaged by computer programs, but at least they drive a car. Perhaps biking would be healthier for them, but on the other hand there are some who have to live in the car, so I guess you're right.

> How much money should Uber give to politicians to spend inneficiently or to be lost in corruption before you consider them to be respecting human rights?

Whatever the law of each country they are operating on says + respecting the local labor laws instead of pretending that their employees are not employees. It's not for Uber of any other company to decide weather the politicians and the laws they enact are good or not. That's the job of the voters.

> Providing comfort is a service that improves our collective condition.

Seems like a bit of a zero-sum game to me. Some people's lives become less comfortable so that other's can become more comfortable. But comfort is pretty irrelevant in face of the real existential threats that we are facing, in part being caused by the current infinite growth economical paradigm.


> Even if this was true, and there is a mountain of empirical data suggesting it isn't, [...]

On the contrary, it's pretty clear that living conditions have been historically getting better worldwide. See, for example, Hans Rosling.

> Whatever the law of each country they are operating on says [...]

Why are there any Uber drivers then? Why don't they choose to work instead of traditional jobs instead of being, according to you, a micromanaged cog with no human rights?

> Some people's lives become less comfortable so that other's can become more comfortable.

Are they less comfortable driving an Uber than they would be in the job they would get in case there was no Uber?

> in part being caused by the current infinite growth economical paradigm

If you want the quality of life of people living in undeveloped countries to increase, there's no alternative to economical growth. You probably live in a country which has already been through this process, but preventing others from growing in the name of supposed existential threats is condemning their population to poverty.


I've used shitty cabs in some places, including the US where they were surprisingly poor. So I can understand Uber has some appeal.

Here in the UK it's Uber that needs to get a clue. After a few tries of Uber I just use cabs as they're consistently reliable and have a clue where they're going, and local rat runs. Without needing to piss about with the sat nav. I've never had a cab driver phone me to ask where I'm going then not show. Uber have done this twice. So they score near zero for reliability which is what I need from a vehicle service.

Just as well really considering the assorted revelations about their dodgy practices.


> I've never had a cab driver phone me to ask where I'm going then not show. Uber have done this twice.

They do that in the UK a lot because they don't like the ride, so they cancel. When they call me I always act like I cannot hear them (which is often the case) and then they always turn up. I don't think they are supposed to know where you are going before they arrive.


Interesting. I didn't realise that was the game, or how to play. :)

With cabs they've known destination first for ages unless you hail. Kind of hard on the Uber drivers if they don't know if it's a 10 minute or 2 hr drive ahead.


I have had quotes of 400 GBP for a cab (and multiple companies) vs < 100 GBP for Uber for long distance.

Is this because the cost of the taxi includes milage for the return to a base location? Taxis have been doing this sort of thing for a long time, so they include all the costs in their pricing models. Uber is designed for short hops around a city where there are rides to pick up in lots of locations. I strongly suspect that means the cost of the Uber doesn't include anything for the return trip so the driver will just have to suck up that cost. If taking long trips in an Uber gets popular you'll either see the cost go up or you'll never get a driver to accept the ride.


This is definitely wrong. In multiple conversations with Uber drivers, they prefer the longer trips as it makes them more money. They are able to not take long trips if they prefer (although they don't know the exact destination before accepting a trip, they are told if it is long one), and choose to do so.


Also Uber allows the drivers to get customers wherever they are. After a long trip they can work that area for a while and maybe make their way back home. With a local taxi company if a driver is out of the area they serve then they have no customers.


Yep, this is very nice of Uber actually; I usually have to travel (for work) to a remote area where there is no Uber (and normal cabs are always full); if you pay attention, you will find an Uber driving back to London passing by and just take that one.


When traveling in Dominican Republic, I asked an Uber driver on a 10 minute trip about my planned 30 minute trip to the airport on the following day, and he told me no drivers like to accept those due to the unpaid drive back. The next day, I made sure to tip my driver and mention this fact and he really appreciated it.

Not sure if Uber pricing never includes the trip back, or if it's country-specific.


I assumed it is country specific; in some countries they prefer long trips, in others they try to get rid of them. Like call upfront to ask where you're going and if it's too far they cancel. But I am indeed not sure. I always tip on long distance anyway unless they were really rude.


> ...or you'll never get a driver to accept the ride.

Uber drivers don't see your destination before they accept the ride. They see the pickup address, customer rating, and the type of the ride (UberX, UberPOOL, UberSELECT).


Yeah they try to get your destination upfront by calling which they are not supposed to and then cancel if too long or too short.


> We see a LOT of rivaling apps by/for the taxi companies or just by a regional company because they don't want to give their money to a US company, but most of them are absolutely awful. The ones I tried in Barcelona were unusable, unreliable and just generally crap.

Have you tried mytaxi? It works in many cities all over Europe (including Barcelone) and in my experience works pretty well, including the GPS feature and getting a ride immediately.


I was going to say the same thing.

It's almost exactly the same as Uber, open the app, enter a destination, a taxi picks you up and you pay through the app when you're done. In Berlin prices are very similar.


>Uber is definitely not perfect as a business but the taxi companies are horrible all over the place. If taxi companies would just enter the 21st century, I would maybe never use Uber but the thing is, they don't.

I never really understood this sentiment. This may be different in other countries, but in Western European cities, taxis are usually dependable and affordable. Just walk to the next taxi stand or hail the first one coming by.


I don't know... I have been cursed and spat at by multiple taxi driver in Portugal and Spain (always because they thought the ride was too short and they need to get back to the end of the queue so really shitty for them hence my 21st century sentiment). And you cannot really complain; you can fill in a form which no-one ever does anything with. With Uber all of that is just better.

And dependable... I missed my plane a month ago because the cab driver stood around the wrong corner for 10 minutes, did not contact me and went away again. The company called me hours later when their office opened (this was a 6 am flight) and berated me for not turning up. It's rubbish.


I have had quotes of 400 GBP for a cab (and multiple companies) vs < 100 GBP for Uber for long distance.

Sure, since about £200 of your trip are paid for by venture capitalists they can afford to offer such rates.


uber IS the taxi of the 21st Century.


I live in Madrid and this issue is fairly complex.

- Taxi is a public service that is performed by private entrepreneurs. As such, it is strongly regulated by law (fares, working days/hours, etc...). On the other hand, VTCs (spanish acronym for Transport Vehicle with Driver, Vehículo de Transporte con Conductor) are not regulated by any special laws (except labour laws of course).

- Taxi drivers were always strongly organized but more of a guild kind of organization rather than a union kind. Most VTC drivers are not organized in any way.

- The price of a taxi license is quite expensive (150,000+€ in Madrid), however a VTC license (private transport license) is way cheaper.

- Most taxi licenses are owned by individuals, not companies. There are very few people that have more than one taxi license. On the other hand, most VTC licenses are concentrated in very few hands (mainly Uber and Cabify).

- The agreements between taxi drivers and government was that he ratio between VTC licenses and taxi licenses is to be 1:30. Currently it is 1:5, hence the strikes.


* How much is "way cheaper"? I've heard that VTC licenses are getting more and more expensive, around ~50K € (if I remember correctly).

* What do you mean by "concentrated in very few hands (mainly Uber and Cabify)"? Surely Uber and Cabify don't directly own those licenses, right?


* You can find VTC licenses for ~60,000€.

* Uber and Cabify don't own those licenses directly but their CEOs and investors do (https://www.elmundo.es/cronica/2018/08/05/5b659a44468aeb9a29...).


The reason VTC licenses are expensive is that it were first illegal, then EU forced legality with a directive, then government found a loophole to forbid them again, so there was a window of a few years when they could be obtained.

So artificial scarcity.

Edit: Oh and BTW it was taxi drivers who mostly benefited by the price boom. They bought the licenses for less than 200 and sold them by thousands.


> - The price of a taxi license is quite expensive (150,000+€ in Madrid), however a VTC license (private transport license) is way cheaper.

Am I reading this right? 150,000 euros for the privilege of driving a taxi?


Yes and no.

AFAIK, licences are limited and no way near that price. When a taxi driver retires, he "resells" the license to another colleague for a huge amount (150k+). The buyer buys it knowing he'll be able to resell the license when he retires too, and so on.

This practice has been going on for years, so now taxi drivers are afraid of losing the status quo because they've paid an overpriced license.


Yes. Government does not issue more taxi licenses, so the only way to get one is to buy it from someone else. The price is set by the market. A taxi driver can easily make 2,500€/month in Madrid, especially if he/she hires another driver/s to drive the taxi when the main driver is resting.


> A rival service, Spain's Cabify, has followed Uber's example.

This is what happened here in Oslo, Norway. Basically Uber left after a lot of difficulty, and the local cab company created it's own app that does what Uber's app mostly does.

I think the greatest gift Uber will have given us is getting the Cab companies to join the modern era. Honestly it was only a few years ago when you would have to make a phone call to order a cab, OR be within visual proximity of an available cab.


I would say that what enabled this in Oslo and similar local apps was a (relatively) respectable taxi industry. Taxi drivers had to agree to be honest about pricing and practices to standardize on an app and there are still plenty of places where they're more interested in profiteering from bad practices than being honest competitors.

I used to spend time in the south of France for work and the taxi drivers there were awful rip-off artists. They'd try to scam tourists for over twice the standard price. We used other known taxi firms and Uber moved in to save the tourists. The taxi drivers went on strike and rioted but being honest would have been better.

Uber is a distributed & centralized taxi company with software that isn't overly complex to copy on a local level. It had first mover advantage but is very susceptible to local competition, especially when local laws come into play (even if they're not obvious anti-competition laws).

In the end the main aim should be the drivers earning a decent wage, which is something Uber hasn't always been good at.


> I would say that what enabled this in Oslo and similar local apps was a (relatively) respectable taxi industry.

Yes.. absolutely that is a factor.


> Honestly it was only a few years ago when you would have to make a phone call to order a cab, OR be within visual proximity of an available cab.

Is using an app really that much of an improvement?


My friends in Barcelona are furious that this also includes Cabify. While taxis are generally plentiful, if you don't live near a major street, are in the suburbs or need to get an urgent taxi there are few options. I think MyTaxi still works though? Are all taxis across the board subject to the 15 minute delay? What a weird thing to impose and not just demand that taxi drivers are subject to certain labour laws that are beneficial to them.

Apparently the taxis demanded a 24 hour wait..


The 15 minute delay is only for VTCs, that is, vehicles with a driver which are not taxis. MyTaxi should work as usual (except when there's a strike going on, of course).


Taxi drivers are a cartel. I don't like Uber and their approach of wiping their butts with the law, but I hope all taxi drivers have to find another job. In a coal mine, for example.


> The decision comes after the Catalan government insisted on imposing a 15-minute delay before passengers could be picked up.

I agree that the Uber model is problematic but making the taxi service worse for everyone (harder to order a cab for right where you are / right now) to level the field seems really shortsighted.


The 15 minute delay was only for Uber


This seems irrational. What's the argument behind such requirement?


The law about VTCs (that is, vehicles rented with a driver [which are not taxis]) is, similarly to limo services in some other countries, that they cannot pick people on the street, and they need, previously to picking up the client, some short of "service sheet": A sheet detailing their trips and the client information. (I'm simplifying a lot)

In the past that meant they needed to go back to the base, pick their "service sheet" for the next jobs, and then go make their thing. If you needed a ride for "right now", the VTC wasn't your choice. VTC, are/were widely used, for example, on TV production. The VTC driver received their "work sheet" in the morning and they would go and "pick the host at 7, the guest at 9, the other guest at 10, take the host to the airport at 12...".

Now, with the apps, the app is your "work sheet", so even if you can't pick people on the street in theory, in practice it's like you can, because I can check in the app how many VTCs are near, and "order" one which will get here almost instantly, because they don't need to go back to the base to get their "work sheet".

So, that's the argument on requiring some minimum delay when ordering a VTC. For me, the 24h delay is ridiculous, as even with the classic "analog paper work sheet", you could call the base for a driver, and if they had somebody there, send you one in half an hour, so it makes no sense.

Anyway, my main concern with VTCs is workers rights, as, AFAIK, none of them have contracts, and are freelancers stranded with an expensive car renting, with promises of having steady work from their employers.


I don't know the details but it could because in many countries there are different licenses for taxis that can pick up off the street, as opposed to licensed car services that can only be pre-booked.

Uber tends to operate as the latter, using the laws for a pre-booked taxi service.

This law is obviously protection for the classic taxis by giving a legal standard to what it means to be pre-booked. They can claim to be just clarifying an existing law.


It is rational from a self-serving standpoint from the taxist point of reference. The rational is to hurt Uber and consumers and by doing so giving Taxis an advantage (ie, they can now reach you faster than a Uber).

It is a huge loss if you look at it from a societal welfare point of view.


I think the social welfare math is more complicated than you suggest. The cab driver jobs saved may offset the inconvenience for example.

Certainly from a car-hailing-rider perspective the Uber wait is worse but social welfare is much more complex.


I agree it is more complicated than what I outlined above, but I do think the aggregate welfare lost from the detriment in service quality of car-hailing multiplied by the number of potential consumers hurt represents a bigger loss than any gain cab-drivers could obtain with this measure.

I find the measure exactly the wrong type of regulation, the one that hurts a large segment of society to protect a small group (which had already benefited from a decades-long state imposed monopoly and became stagnant and comformist as a result).

As a small disclaimer, I do admit I have a bias against cab-drivers in general, but I do not think it clouds my judgement in this case.


I agree it is a bad form of regulation. Uber has benefits to consumers but it’s unclear to me what other benefits they offer to society as a whole.

The regulatory structures need to catch up but I don’t think Uber as it exists in 2019 is a viable long term solution.


The cab driver jobs saved may offset the inconvenience for example.

On the contrary, the measure instantly caused the loss of thousands of jobs.


It provides an advantage to cab companies?


Apart from "The taxi model has worked for decades, don't take our livelihoods away" are there any articles on why Uber is actually detrimental?

I find it way easier to use Uber than get Taxis mostly due to the app based "click and collect" model, I would still use that even if it was the same price as a regular taxi. It annoys me that there seems to be lots of "crackdown" on Uber but I don't feel informed enough to know why.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uber#Criticism

Main criticism seems to revolve around Uber trying to bypass regulations that regular taxi firms have to abide by, paying holiday and sick leave, or vetting their drivers etc.


> I find it way easier to use Uber than get Taxis mostly due to the app based "click and collect" model

mytaxi.com does just that.


Wow that it does, I hadn't heard of that. Thanks.

If Taxi's just copied Uber's UX I would use them all the time. If I can get quoted on my journey ahead of time, and the money is taken out of my account with no money exchanging hands between me and the driver then I would be fine with them.

In the UK you can get quotes for journeys but it doesn't mean anything because they just put you on a meter, no-one knows how the meters work. You get in the back and they press some buttons, the numbers change, the price for the same journey is vastly different every time, their card machine is never working despite it being the law to accept cards now so they take you to an ATM, they keep the meter running while you wait behind someone to get cash out, and so on. I have no sympathy for taxi company's anymore. As others have mentioned, if they modernised I would support them.


FWIW I've used Uber like 4 times, never in Europe (twice in Seattle, twice in Buenos Aires). I got mixed results, including several drivers in BA cancelling on me after asking me where I'm going (??) and if I'm paying cash (I wasn't). It is annoying to book the service, wait about 10 minutes for the car to finish their previous run, get the driver on the chat asking you that then cancelling on you. It turned a 30 minutes drive in a 60 minutes trip because I had various cancellations.

On the other hand I can see how Uber might appeal to certain folks that like to be treated as royalty despite being working class like the majority of us are.

And no, the "technological advances" (sic) of Uber are not a difference. I can book cabs the same way with an app pretty much in any big city these days.


If Taxi companies were actually capable of doing the job Uber did then maybe I’d consider using them.

I normally go out of my way in order to do the “right” thing... But I’ve never seen an adequate taxi company in the EU. Everywhere they charge more than Uber, expect me to download a specific app for their service, rarely support card payments and my personal favourite is when they round up the amount owed because they either don’t have change or you know convenience.

Also why don’t taxi companies have their own global app. Yeah sure it’s hard to build but welcome to the competitive market guys... you can’t just go on strike because the consumers prefer your competitors based on quality of service and pricing. How is this even a government issue? Actually why is it a government issue? Just allow competition between taxis and ride hailing companies. Let them figure it out.

I feel the biggest problem is that politicians who bow down to the taxi drivers only do it for the votes and not because it’s better for the general public.

/stop rant


I think that PG was completely right on this https://twitter.com/paulg/status/222462460978937856?lang=en


That's such a shallow take. To bypass local labour laws as a business idea and effectively go back ~100 years in history is not objectively good. But perhaps it looks like it from the view of the upper middle-class who's at the benefiting end.


I would argue this is wrong on several levels: 1. The convenience offered by the app is obviously a good thing; Uber's labor practices are not. 2. The low price of Uber rides is subsidized by burning VC money; they could easily kill local competition then raise prices at will once they have established a quasi-monopoly.

However, it's correct in pointing out the vested interests and corruption of the legacy taxi industry.


I recently worked in a smaller German city without Uber. It was like stepping back into the stone age.

'MyTaxi' app would only produce an available driver 1 in 20 times I tried.

The only way to get a taxi is to walk out into the freezing street and wait like a penguin, or find one of those random locations Taxis like to park at.

Sucks for the customer. I hope Uber takes over the planet.


> The only way to get a taxi is to walk out into the freezing street

Isn't the obvious way to get a taxi in a suburban/rural setting to (1) google "placename taxi" or ask around to find the phone number of local taxi firm (2) give them a call and wait inside for the cab?


it's a pity that we are losing good services cause we are unable to create a fair form of regulation


What is government for $500 Alex ;)




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