Cabs Crushed: Ridesharing Is Worth More Than 3x Entire Taxi Market

AP Photo/Mel Evans
AP Photo/Mel Evans

In just a few years, a handful of Silicon Valley ridesharing companies have created a new market that’s worth multiple times the entire U.S. Taxi industry.

Today, the second biggest ridesharing company, Lyft, announced a $500 million investment round, giving it a total valuation of around $2.5 billion. It’ll need at least that much money to compete with the king of the ridesharing industry, Uber, which is valued at a whopping $41 billion.

For comparison, the taxi and limousine industry generates just $12 billion in revenue, according to research firm, IBISWorld.

In part, this is the taxi industry’s fault: unions purposefully limit the number of taxi drivers to maintain a predictable wage for their members. Each driver is required to get a “medallion” before they can join a recognized cab company.

It turns out that demand for taxi-like services was much, much greater than the old industry realized. It’s failure to predict the future has taken a costly toll on cab drivers. Last Fall, the San Francisco Examiner reported that taxis had seen a 65 percent drop in average daily trips.

This shouldn’t be unexpected. Unionized industries generally have trouble innovating. One economic study found that electing to form a union leads to a 8 percent drop in innovation. Now that technology is coming for more industries, any unionized company will have a harder time keeping up with their startup competitors.

Of course, these are back-of-the napkin calculations, mostly because accurate statistics are hard to come by. And, valuations aren’t the same as revenue, but it’s a nice mental anchor. In just a few years, two small companies have dominated an established market.


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