Apr 02 2018

The war between taxis and Uber in Istanbul

Taxi drivers in Istanbul struggling with high costs and low pay have declared war on Uber services and Istanbul Taxi Drivers Tradesmen’s Association (ITEO) poured fuel on the flames by taking Uber to court for unfair competition wrote Thomas Seibert in Arab Weekly.

There are approximately 30,000 taxi drivers in Istanbul, compared to 5,000 Uber drivers, yet the taxi drivers complain that Uber services are making it more difficult for them to earn a living.

“I need at least 250 lira (around $62) every day to break even before I even start to make money for myself,” a taxi driver named Hasan said to Steibert. “I have been on the job for five hours already today and I’m only at 150 lira.”

Most taxi drivers in Istanbul generally work for license holders required to operate taxis and therefore receive a daily income net of other costs and the payment made to the licence holder. The taxis operate 24 hours a day with one or two drivers working in shifts. The number of taxi licences has been capped at around 17,400 since the 1960s, despite a seven-fold increase in the population and a taxi licence is traded for $450,000. 

According to Hasan, the fact that Uber drivers do not need a cab licence to operate give them an unfair advantage. He added that some taxi drivers had begun considering leaving their taxis and working for Uber instead. Seibert noted that, taxi drivers talking to local media had defended the recent violence against Uber drivers on the grounds that their own economic survival is at stake.

Yet a change in the taxi licence system is unlikely as an increase in the number of licences would mean a decrease in the wealth of licence holders, explained Seibert referring to discussions in Turkish newspapers.

Uber started to operate in Istanbul in 2014 and plans to extend its services to coastal regions in the summer. A ride in a Uber car is more expensive than a taxi -according to Steibert the trip from the city’s main airport into the city centre is about $25 in an Uber and $18 in a cab-, but it is gaining popularity in Istanbul as the majority of Istanbulites are dissatisfied with the services of taxi drivers.