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When Uber arrived in New York City in 2011, yellow cabs ruled the streets, with drivers paying $1 million for coveted taxi medallions that entitle them to pick up passengers.

Undeterred, Uber worked tirelessly to drive passengers away, deriding the taxi industry as inefficient, corrupt, greedy and even a “cartel.” The taxi industry, in turn, accused the company of leading its drivers to financial ruin.

Now the once bitter rivals, who have battled for years for control of the city’s streets, are forming an unlikely alliance: Uber is teaming up with two taxi companies, Curb and CMT, to let New Yorkers hail a yellow cab. on the street. Uber app, the companies said Thursday.

The announcement, the first such large-scale deal in the US, comes at a time when riders are increasingly adopting apps to order Ubers and taxis. Companies fight for recover from a pandemic that has hit the ride-sharing industry as people have worked from home and tourists have stayed away.

“On one hand, Uber and the yellow cab look like oil and water,” said Bruce Schaller, a former city transportation official. “On the other hand, when you take a taxi or go to your smartphone to get an Uber, it will be the same experience as before. So it’s like a big change and the same thing at the same time.”

Starting this spring, riders will be able to open the Uber app and choose a taxi. Uber will then forward the request to the two taxi technology companies, who will notify drivers to pick up passengers. The fare will be based on Uber prices and policies, including price gouging, which can significantly increase the cost during peak hours.

The app will display a price up front, as with all Uber rides, before the user requests the ride. Riders will pay about the same price for a yellow cab as for a standard individual ride from Uber, known as UberX, the company said.

Yellow cab drivers who respond to calls from the Uber app will also see the price of the trip in advance and, depending on the agreement, have the option to accept or decline it.

Although Uber has clashed with groups of taxis for years as it has tried to seize the markets worldwide, found that partnering with taxi companies instead of fighting them can boost your business, especially abroad. Partnerships with taxi fleets and technology companies in other countries allow Uber passengers to order taxis on the app, as will be the case in New York.

Those deals, combined with the New York partnership, “would appear to reflect a new page or a new stance in which Uber is willing to work more closely with the industry it once tried to disrupt,” said Tom White, a research analyst at Uber. senior with the financial firm DA Davidson.

Being “a little more friendly” with taxi companies could help Uber “curry favor and smooth Uber’s relationships with legislators and policymakers” in those cities, he added.

Uber said it had integrated with more than 2,500 taxis in Spain, partnered with taxi service TaxExpress in Colombia, acquired the local HK Taxi app in Hong Kong last year, started a partnership with SK Telecom in South Korea, and also worked with taxis in other countries, including Germany, Austria, and Turkey.

Uber’s new partnership with the New York taxi industry, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, will bring more revenue to the company as it receives a fee for each ride requested through its app.

At Uber’s investor day in February, Andrew Macdonald, Uber’s senior vice president of mobility and business operations, said the company wanted every taxi in the world to be on its platform by 2025.

Macdonald said adding taxis was about money: When Uber offers more modes of transportation, the company found, customers often use multiple of those methods, “spend more and are more loyal.”

Muhammad Rahman, 37, who has driven a cab in New York for eight years, said he hoped an Uber connection would generate more fares in neighborhoods where street stops are rare. “Uber customers are everywhere,” he said.

But another taxi driver, Helmer Monroy, 67, was more skeptical. “I don’t think Uber is going to help the yellow cab industry,” he said. “They didn’t destroy the industry, but they damaged it.”

Antonio Cruz, 50, a Brooklyn resident who drives for Uber two days a week, said he was concerned the new Uber-taxi partnership could mean more competition from yellow cabs, especially on days when he works in Manhattan. . “We could lose business,” he said.

Before the pandemic, New York taxi drivers were losing fares due to ride-hailing app services from Uber and Lyft and facing financial ruin afterward. taking out loans buy medallions at inflated prices.

Uber has faced its own challenges during the pandemic. At first, with travel demand plummeting and drivers worried about contracting the coronavirus, many left the platform.

As the US economy recovered and cities relaxed restrictions, customers returned but found drivers hadn’t returned in the same numbers, leading to dramatically higher fares and long wait times for rides. .

Both companies recognized last year they were struggling to attract enough drivers to meet demand, but said more recently that the problem is easing. Uber said the number of drivers on its platform was at its highest level since February 2020.

Still, many drivers remain unhappy with the amount of money they earn, with some saying they drive less or not at all. since high gas prices began to affect their profits. Adding thousands of taxi drivers could help offset the departures of other drivers.

The new Uber-taxi partnership in New York did not require approval from the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, which oversees taxis and for-hire vehicles, including Ubers, city officials said.

“We’re always interested in innovative tools that can expand economic opportunity for taxi drivers,” said acting agency commissioner Ryan Wanttaja. “We are excited about any proposal to more easily connect riders to taxis and look forward to learning more about this agreement between Uber and taxi apps and ensuring that it complies with TLC rules.”

New Yorkers will still be able to hail yellow cabs on the street or order them through two taxi apps, Curb and Arro, which offer up-front pricing like Uber rides.

The city’s 13,587 yellow cabs are equipped with technology systems from Curb or Creative Mobile Technologies, which runs the Arro app.

Curb, which has more than two million users in New York City, saw a spike in demand during the last year of the pandemic. The average daily commute for individual consumers has skyrocketed to more than 15,000 trips citywide from about 2,000 trips in 2019, according to Amos Tamam, chief executive of Curb.

“Taxis are back on the consumer’s radar,” Mr. Tamam said, adding that the partnership with Uber could lead to a “substantial increase” in trips by taxi drivers.

When a passenger requests a yellow cab through the Uber app, both Uber and the taxi company will receive fares for the rides. Taxi drivers will continue to be paid through the Curb and CMT systems.

It’s hard to say how the deal will affect passengers and drivers, in part because trip costs and driver payments are controlled by algorithms that vary by application, the length and distance of a trip, the time of day that passengers request cars and others. factors

In some cases, passengers may pay more for a taxi they order through the Uber app than for one they hail on the street, but not always. Similarly, drivers can sometimes, but not always, receive more for a metered ride than for a ride ordered through the Uber app. Uber said it would provide more details about the taxi option in the coming months.

Bhairavi Desai, director of the Taxi Workers Alliance, a group representing taxi drivers, said she believed drivers who accepted rides from the Uber app would earn less than if they picked someone up on the street and took them to the same place.

He urged drivers to negotiate better rates with Uber, noting that the deal was reached “at a time when companies need this deal more than drivers do” because Uber is “haemorrhaging drivers.”

“We’re going to use it as an opportunity to negotiate the right terms for the drivers,” he said.

Others expressed more optimism.

Mr Schaller said that if the new system is implemented correctly, following existing regulations, it should benefit both drivers and customers.

“I’ve always hoped there would eventually be a convergence of yellow cabs and ride-sharing apps,” Schaller added, “but I wouldn’t have predicted 2022 if you asked me in 2019.”

Brian Rosenthal contributed reporting.

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