Fist fight! Nice taxis are expensive and often surly …and Uber cars are cheap and friendly …which makes the taxi drivers really, really mad! So mad that the President of the Taxi Union and another taxi driver were thrown in jail last week for beating up an Uber driver at the airport!
The taxis are furious at what they see as unfair competition from car services; after all, taxis have to buy a shockingly expensive taxi license …so let’s just take a look as why that is, shall we?
The number of taxi licenses in Nice has not increased since the 1960’s, thanks to pressure from the taxi union. This keeps the price of a coveted taxi license astronomically high, currently around 300,000€, and it can only be bought from a retiring driver. Those that have licenses have fought tooth-and-nail not to increase the number of taxis to meet the demand, using every tactic at their disposal. A couple of years ago it was proposed to simply allow the possibility of a taxi license to be shared by one driver during the day and another at night, which would help relieve some of the pressure. Result? The Nice taxi drivers pulled their trademark ‘escargot’, blocking all traffic into the airport for days, causing airport chaos as thousands of innocent travelers missed their flights, until the proposal was finally dropped.
By the way, the Nice taxis are threatening to go all escargot again in May, targeting the period that encompasses the Cannes Film Festival, Mother’s Day and the Monaco Grand Prix.
So what is this Uber, anyway? It is a ride-sharing service somewhat akin to AirBnb; you register on-line with your payment details, and then when you want to order a car you do so on your smartphone. Shortly after, you get a text message confirming the car and driver, the estimated price, and in how many minutes. No cash changes hands, all the driver’s info and photo is on your phone, everything is confirmed by text message and email, and you rate the driver at the end of the ride.
There are two levels: Uber-Berline is the more expensive service (but still less than a taxi) where you are picked up in an fancy car with a professional driver. It’s a professional service and completely legal in France.
But it’s the wildly-popular Uber-Pop that is causing the ruckus …this bargain-priced service is from moonlighting drivers using their own cars (kind of like AirBnb), which France, under pressure from the Taxi Union, has declared illegal competition as of January 1st. But technically illegal or not, it’s such a great deal for everyone involved (except for overpriced taxis!) that it’s happening anyway, and happening big.
Check out the cost comparison that the Nice-Matin did for the trip between the Meridien Hotel and the airport last week:
- The taxi was 35€
- The Uber-Berline took 10 minutes to arrive to the hotel, was a black Mercedes Viano with leather seats and a bottle of water, the driver was impeccably attired, friendly and professional, and the cost of the trip was 26€
- The UBER-pop took 15 minutes to arrive in the Kiss & Fly zone at the airport, and was a clean and well maintained Opel Astra, with a friendly driver who is a delivery driver by day (and father-of-two), who moonlights as an Uber driver to round out the month. The 11-minute trip cost 8€, with the debit confirmed by an email.
Wow, no wonder the Nice taxis are so mad!
Photo credit: Taxi sign by Simone Ramella, licenced under creative commons
See related page Taking a Taxi in Nice