Exciting Business Opportunity

I flat out do not understand why Albany has such a horrible taxi culture. Coming home from the train station this afternoon, we were forced to share a minivan “cab” with four other people. The two of us, traveling the shortest distance and as a “group,” were charged $18.50 for the grand service of a 2.5 mile ride in a shared car after waiting around for ten minutes in the cold to round up more passengers. Three passengers traveling to Albany Med were being charged $13.50 each. The final passenger was traveling up to an address near St. Peter’s, and, I’m sure, paid at least $15 for the pleasure.

So, to review: the cab company made over $70 for about twenty minutes of driving. Obviously, I understand why they are successful: there is no alternative, so this is an amazing business model. What I don’t understand is why some entrepreneurial 22 year old isn’t taking an Uber-like approach to taxi service in and around Albany. If cabs here are going to be mortifyingly expensive, the very least they could do is also be private and direct. Since that is the point of cabs. 

So, three take aways:

  1. I will support the pants off of any cab driver or company that is reliable and seems to actually value my service/dollars. Others would too. Why isn’t someone making money off of this?
  2. In my compulsive Vietnam research, I’ve read a lot of narratives from people who have had bad experiences with the country because they feel like they are constantly being unfairly scammed; those same people connect that experience to the relatively low rate of return travelers Vietnam gets comparatively to other Southeast Asian countries, like Thailand. Similarly, I do not think there is any way our taxi culture speaks well for us as a city or region. We deserve better, and we deserve to show our guests (the other four passengers in our cab tonight, for example) that we’re not a bunch of hooligans content to scam tourists in a way that is more reminiscent of a developing country than the capital of one of the biggest and best states in the country. My point being: governments and/or Chambers of Commerce and/or Visitors Bureaus, get on this.
  3. Speaking of: while I’m sure the CDTA has its reasons (Ross?) for its meh-at-best bus service between Albany and the train station, I am going to pre-emptively put out there that I think that those reasons are inadequate. There should be a bus waiting (or, at least, arriving) at the train station ten minutes after every NYC train gets in, at a minimum. Furthermore, that bus should run at least as far as South Allen or so on one of the major traffic arteries. The 114 would be fine for this if it ran at all on Sundays. (Does Madison Avenue stop existing on Sundays? It still seems like it’s there, but maybe it’s just an illusion.) Also, if it seemed like the bus schedules had anything to do with the train schedules. And, finally, if there was clear signage indicating what bus to take to get to downtown Albany, and where it picked up. (Right now, you have to be lucky, an extremely good sleuth, or have a friend who manages CDTA routes, to deduce the ridiculous and counter-intuitive fact that the 114 to Albany picks up on the same side of the street that the 114 from Albany drops off.)

If all these factors were in place, there is no way ridership between Albany and the train station wouldn’t pick up. Consistently taking the bus to and from the train station right now is really only an option for those extremely dedicated to the concept of public transportation, whether through financial necessity or ideological commitment. Make it something the public can really use, and we’ll use it. And, oh my gosh please, then we’ll also stop using those horrendous so-called-taxis.

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