By Scott Wallsten
Published in The Atlantic on July 9, 2015
During a taxi ride late one night a few years ago, a cabbie started berating me for asking him to drive the 25 minutes from downtown D.C. to my home in Maryland. At the time, I thought to myself, At least he took me. In the past, some drivers had simply refused. And, like many other cab riders, I came to expect that his cab’s credit-card machine would be mysteriously “broken” when it came time to pay.
All that has changed. Nowadays, with a few taps on my phone, an Uber or Lyft pulls up, takes me where I need to go, and then automatically charges my credit card and emails me a detailed receipt. While taxis used to face little competition for on-demand point-to-point transportation, today they find themselves in a cutthroat business. The number of taxi trips in New York City decreased by about 8 percent from 2012 to 2014, and one recent report found that Uber provides almost half of all paid rides in major U.S. markets.
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