Sunday, 14 February 2016

Rant about Yellow Rides on Tinder

Due to my work I visit Bucharest quite regularly. A fascinating city that I would recommend to anyone. But during the last few trips I have paid particular attention to one aspect of life there that I wanted to highlight here: taxis.

Taxis in Bucharest are licensed, but prices are not regulated. Rather they are freely set by market conditions, and each taxi will have the price/km printed on its yellow side for all potential customers to see.

What I find even more interesting is how taxis are booked. Hailing one off the street is not recommended as there are apparently some dodgy operators around, as is the case in just about every city. Instead, everyone has an app on their phone by which they can book a taxi to their location. Once they have logged a request, a driver will propose to provide the ride. With the proposal you can see the driver's picture as well as scores (1-5 stars) that previous clients have given him and choose whether to accept the offer or wait for another one. A colleague of mine regularly rejects drivers if she does not like the look of them and a new proposal will appear almost immediately. It is almost like being on Tinder (or that is how it appears to someone like me who has never been on Tinder but finds the concept fascinating).

Sounds familiar? I predict that Uber will not even try to penetrate the Bucharest market, as the local players are already playing their game, and with apparent success.

A well-functioning taxi market is in my opinion an essential part of urban planning that aims at reducing car ownership and encourages people to use other modes of transport instead. We simply do not have enough space in city centres for people to park their cars (which is what a privately owned car will be doing most of the time – being parked).

Geneva is trying to address the threat posed to the highly regulated and even more highly priced taxi market by suing Uber and trying to get it banned. Bucharest is taking another route: learning what it is about Uber that customers seem to love so much and shamelessly copying it.

You can guess which approach has my vote …

What is the approach in your city? Something even better?


  1. In my tiny village of Buriton there are no taxis haha, but I do like the Bucharest taxi idea. I don't usually get taxis there, because I mainly use the Metro, but most of the time I grabbed one from the taxi rank.
    I know that people find the lack of parking there (or people's lack of respect for sidewalks and roads in general) very frustrating. There is a constant battle between car and pedestrian, that the pedestrians seem to lose all the time.

  2. Very interesting! In Asia, we have homegrown Uber clones - Ola and Meru Cabs (India), Didi Kuaidi (China) and GrabTaxi (South East Asia) - that compete with Uber and are all bigger players than Uber in their home markets. And these competitors have forced Uber to innovate and adapt to local conditions - Uber has cash payment option in India and offers on-demand motorbike taxis in SE Asia and India, to make sure it keeps pace with its local competitors.
    Absolutely agree with you that a well-functioning on-demand taxi service needs to replace private car ownership, particularly in crowded, polluted Asian cities.
    Now, if only Uber and these local taxi aggregators start offering more Electric Vehicle taxis!

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