Taxi companies ‘are fighting for futures’ as Uber floods local market

Posted at 3:52 PM, Jul 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-21 15:57:03-04

RICHMOND, Va. — Richmond’s taxi drivers have a hoard of new competitors.

More than 1,200 vehicles in the city of Richmond, Chesterfield County and Henrico County signed on with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to be formally allowed to pick up passengers for Uber, as of the July 1 deadline for registrations.

That’s more than double the traditional taxi vehicles that are active on the road in those localities. And the figures statewide show a similar trend of outnumbering, with more than 23,000 cars in Virginia registering for DMV’s new transportation network companies (TNC) designation since registration opened in February. There are more than 5,000 traditional taxis registered in the state.

Companies like Uber and Lyft let people use their own cars to sell rides to passengers through a smartphone application.

Uber and Lyft entered the Virginia transportation market last year with a degree of controversy. The San Francisco-based companies operated in the state in spite of the DMV sending cease-and-desist letters and levying fines against them. Uber and Lyft and Virginia eventually reached a temporary agreement to let the companies operate legally.

That led to new state legislation, signed into law earlier this year, which created regulations for Uber and Lyft under the TNC designation. The new rules require TNCs to ensure all drivers are at least 21 years old and properly licensed to drive. They also have to do background checks, among other things. And according to the law, TNC vehicles must be insured.

It costs $100,000 for a company to get registered as a TNC and $60,000 to renew the registration each year. DMV spokeswoman Brandy Brubaker said Rasier, an Uber subsidiary, and Lyft are the only companies that have applied and been given the certification.

Most of the TNC registrations were done by the companies on behalf of their drivers. Drivers can be registered through both Uber and Lyft. Individuals don’t have to pay to register.

As of July 1, the city of Richmond has 357 registered TNC drivers and 76 registered taxis. Chesterfield has 314 TNCs and 109 taxis, and Henrico has 539 TNCs and 295 taxis, according to DMV figures.

Jonathan Trainum

Jonathan Trainum, owner of locally based Napoleon Taxi, said the July 1 numbers are “staggering.”

“These entities flooding the market create instability in any profession that relates to public transportation,” Trainum said. “Now, (traditional taxi companies) are fighting for our futures.”

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