Uber and Lyft leaving Minneapolis: Can taxis fill the void?

Now that Uber and Lyft say they’re leaving Minneapolis, customers may be asking what will fill the void?

A spokesperson for Minneapolis said 39 cab drivers are currently licensed to work in the city. In January 2014, there were 1,948.

FOX 9 spoke with a group of cabbies that remembers a time when the taxi parking lots at MSP Airport were completely full. Some of the taxi drivers also drive for rideshare companies.

"I do sometimes Uber and full-time taxi because Uber – they don't pay. You have to work like 12 hours to make like $120 or $150," said Habte Asfaw, a cab driver of ten years.

Now, the drivers wonder what the future will bring as Uber and Lyft officials say they'll leave Minneapolis on May 1.

"I'm with two emotions. Number 1: It's good for us. Maybe our business will be getting better. But at the same time, we don't want the public to suffer. The government should do something in order to keep the public getting those services," said Aman Akako, a cab driver of seven years.

Ultimately, the taxi drivers say they want rideshare companies to just pay more, but if they don’t, they want the companies to leave.

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Some cab companies are planning ahead. A spokesperson for Blue and White Taxi said the company currently has between 200 and 300 drivers in the metro. The company told FOX 9 it has a huge waiting list of drivers, many of which are Uber and Lyft drivers, and if it sees an uptick in business, it will add more drivers.

Although their numbers aren't what they were a decade ago, the taxi drivers feel they can cover the void.

"There are a lot of cab drivers here. [Customers] shouldn't worry about that," Asfaw said.

Other rideshare apps, including Empower, have said they will come to Minneapolis if Uber and Lyft leave. However, a city spokesperson said no other transportation network companies have applied for a license. One company, Pikkapp, has contacted Business Licensing but has not applied.

When FOX 9 asked if the Meet Minneapolis Convention & Visitors Association is concerned about the potential impact of losing the rideshare companies, Kathy McCarthy, the senior director of public relations and communications for Meet Minneapolis Convention & Visitors Association, sent the following statement:

"Having a variety of transportation options is crucial to supporting our tourism and hospitality workforce, business and leisure travelers, and convention attendees. We support funding structures that give transportation network company drivers a fair wage while also ensuring consumers have options available to meet their transportation needs. We continue to monitor this situation closely and will share updated information with our customers as it becomes available. In the meantime, we are hopeful that a solution can be found so that any impact to rideshare users – including out-of-town visitors, convention attendees and tourism and hospitality workers – is negligible."