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South LA Is the Only Place Where Taxis Aren't Losing Ground to Uber

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Cabs are hemorrhaging business to Uber and Lyft throughout Los Angeles, but not in every neighborhood

Anecdotally, it seems pretty obvious that Lyft and Uber have significantly cut into taxicab business in Los Angeles, but city data backs that up and illustrates just how big a bite out of the market these ride-hailing apps have taken, says the LA Times, and the telling parts of town where they haven't.

The data compared the pre-Uber/Lyft times (2012; the apps came into the picture in early 2013) to 2015, and found that the total number of cab rides has dropped by almost a third, from about 8.4 million trips in 2012 down to around 6 million in 2015. Pre-arranged cab rides dropped 42 percent (it's illegal to hail a cab in most of Los Angeles).

In areas of the city like Central LA and the Westside, phone and internet hails usually account for three-quarters of all pre-arranged rides. But since the arrival of Uber and Lyft, "the number of trips in Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles fell 44%, while trips on the Westside decreased by more than half."

The only part of LA where pre-requested taxi rides are rising? South LA. The gains are modest at just 6 percent in three years, but when compared to double-digit citywide losses in pre-arranged trips, 6 percent is actually impressive. That's probably because, unlike taxis, Uber and Lyft can refuse rides based on the neighborhood. In Los Angeles, taxicabs are required to "complete a set percentage of requested trips in every area of the city" thanks to anti-redlining regulations.

You can see the problem in the fact that South LA also had a "higher percentage" of taxi trips that, for one reason or another, weren't completed—sometimes drivers didn't show up; sometimes multiple taxis were called by the same passenger, assuming not all would show up. So the upside to the Uber/Lyft surge is that there's so much competition for cabs that they're actually showing up and getting those fares where they need to go, regardless of the neighborhood.

The small gains taxis have made in South LA are hardly enough to take the edge off for drivers, though, who, regardless of how hard their industry is being hit by ride-hailing apps, still have to pay to rent their cars and their dispatch equipment at rates that don't fluctuate based on how many rides they are or are not giving.

The data also show that in the years between the arrival of Uber and Lyft and 2015, taxi rides at LAX rose 41 percent. But there's little data yet to show how the approval of Uber and Lyft to pick up at the airport will affect those numbers; Lyft began authorized pickups around Christmas 2015 and Uber followed suit in January. "Preliminary data suggests Uber and Lyft drivers are picking up about 24,000 rides per week."

Meanwhile, the city has supposedly been developing what would be a mandatory hailing app for cab drivers, but it's yet to be released.