During my travels over the years I have had the pleasure and displeasure at times, to use taxis all over the place.
As a native of London, I feel rather spoilt.
In my very biased opinion, the London “cabby” takes a bit of a beating.
To become a cabby in London you need to complete what is known as “The Knowledge”. I believe it takes prospective drivers 2 to 5 years to prepare for this epic test.
These guys, and increasingly gals by the way, have to learn the quickest route from any location in London to any passenger’s requested destination. It covers around 25,000 streets and 20,000 landmarks (I googled it). And remember, there is no logic to street names in London. The street map looks like someone literally threw spaghetti on a piece of paper.
The net result is that as a passenger, I can hop into a 6 seater (standard) black cab and trot out the name of any street and know that the driver will know the quickest way to get there, unaided by GPS.
I will not have to prepare for my journey by having to workout the coordinates prior to departure by Google mapping it and finding the cross streets, nor will I be asked directions by the cab driver.
Often, I don’t even need the address. If I am going to a well known restaurant or theatre, the cabby will simply know where it is. The downside for this amazing service is, of course, that I will be charged for it. London cabs cost about two or three times the cost of cabs in New York.
I find the New York yellow cabs unpleasant (sorry if I am offending anyone).
There are, of course, exceptions but I normally find that the driver:
A) Does not know his way around
B) Is very unfriendly
C) Has a filthy cab
D) Drives like a nut case and I feel nauseous after half a mile.
(I say he and his, as I have yet to meet a female one).
I do at least feel safe in many ways though, unlike some places I have travelled where stepping into a cab is a lottery with very high stakes.
In some parts of the world criminals masquerade as cab drivers in the hope of picking up gullible tourists (like me) and whisking them off to be robbed and worse!
In Asia the three wheeler / Tuk Tuk and Autos are great fun. I love bombing around in one of those and I find the drivers brilliant.
There are a couple of problems with these though, most commonly:
In India the “Auto” drivers get gas vouchers from stores if they bring foreigners in to look around. I have often had an “Auto Whaler” ask me, “Please sir, can I take you to store, I need gas” and have spent a lot of time feigning interest in all sorts of low quality merchandise in order to secure a voucher for my poor driver. On one occasion I visited four stores consecutively before I had to insist that the driver actually take me somewhere I wanted to go.
In Thailand I have NEVER gotten out of a Tuk Tuk at the location I had originally requested! The driver has always managed to convince me that where I am heading is rubbish and I really would be better going to see his wife’s sister’s brother–in-law who will look after me much better.
I have to admit I am hooked!
I always get a friendly driver, a nice car and at the very least someone who knows how to activate and operate a GPS navigation system. The cost is around the same as one of those yellow monsters but the experience is by far superior. By simply downloading the app, handing over your payment details and setting up an account you get access to what amounts to a personal chauffer service at your call 24/7.
They sometimes do some amazing offers. When I signed up for Lyft I got my 1st 30 cab rides, up to a value of $25, FREE! …yes FREE! And if I took a ride that was over $25 I only paid the portion over the $25. Incredible.
I think these services are brilliant and, I am sad to say, I think they are going to be the death of the London Cabby, as we know it. With the advent of GPS navigation, that brainpower and street knowledge has been replaced by technology and it simply is not going to add enough value to customers anymore . It is an amazing case study of technology being used to totally reinvent a service and add value to customers.
I think that the yellow cabs of New York could become extinct unless they find a way to compete…and to be honest, as a Vespa riding Englishman in New York, I wouldn’t miss them one bit!