Uber and Lyft to Soon Enter Cincinnati Market

Cincinnati’s taxicab industry has long been, and continues to be, a total embarrassment. The vehicles are old, rates are high, availability is limited and service is generally poor. That all may be changing in the near future, however, due to the impending arrival of Uber and Lyft – two new innovative ridesharing companies.

One of the long-standing issues with Cincinnati’s various taxicab companies has been the lack of uniformity or use of technology. There are scores of rag-tag taxicab businesses all across the city and region, with different levels of service and expectations to go along with each.

Forget trying to pay with a credit card, or by any sort of 21st century payment mechanism, in Cincinnati today. But both Uber and Lyft started with technology as a foundational element of their companies.

“In cities around the world, especially the major ones, you have a very stagnant transportation ecosystem,” explains Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. “A lot of times they don’t work. Bringing innovation to this world, which in many cases hasn’t been innovated on in decades, can really bring diversity to a system that hasn’t seen a lot of that.”

Lyft, founded in 2012, allows your friends and neighbors to become your taxi drivers while using their own person vehicles. Meanwhile, Uber, founded in 2009, uses the latest technological advances to allow users to book, reserve, pay and coordinate all elements of their trip. And both companies ensure that clean, new vehicles are the standard.

Lyft was the first to make the announcement that they would soon be entering the Cincinnati market. In February, the company posted ads on Craigslist soliciting new drivers in the Cincinnati area. Uber has since followed suit and posted a position for a Cincinnati Community Manager on their website.

Both of the new tech-savvy, ridesharing companies have been operating out of Columbus, and will also both soon be operating in Cleveland. As a result, Uber’s new community manager position is based out of the state’s centrally located capital.

“So much about cities is how you get around them,” Kalanick concludes. “If you can bring real efficiency, real convenience and real comfort to how you move around that city, you can change the way people live in that city.”

In Cincinnati, a city where the transportation has essentially been unchanged for several generations, the changes and new competition could not come soon enough for some.

“Convenience trumps all. Instead of digging around Google for local taxi numbers, both services come to you,” explained Josh Green from Roadtrippers, who had previously lived and worked in the San Francisco area and frequently used both services.

Green says that he never had a bad experience using either Lyft or Uber, and even envisions the tech-savvy employees at Roadtrippers to utilize it.

“Both services always had friendly drivers thanks to the mutual rating system. I particularly liked Lyft’s drivers because they are literally normal people off the street,” said Green. “I’m super pumped they are coming to Cincinnati because taxis, especially on week nights, are hard to come by.”

  • Tony Pierce over at the Busblog has been blogging about being an Uber driver. He says in LA only the hottest people use Uber.

    • Yeah, that’s kind of Uber’s marketing strategy. They aim to attract high-end clientele. It’s a bit different from Lyft, although they provide essentially the same type of service. Uber owns their vehicles, however, and assures customers of their luxury status. Lyft is much more populist in nature.

    • Interesting that’s not the impression I got. I’m pretty sure Tony drives his own car. He turns Uber on when he is leaving where ever he went for the night and makes money driving people home who are going the same direction he is.

    • I think you are thinking of Lyft, not Uber. The two differ slightly, but Lyft is more along the lines of what you’re talking about. Uber has always been more about a high-end customer and appeal: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uber_(company).

    • Neil Clingerman

      I’m usually more of a fan of Lyft for that reason, Uber tends to have an image of yuppie snottiness that doesn’t sit well with me. Plus they are usually a lot more expensive.

      Still I’m extremely happy to see them setup in Cincinnati. The whole cab situation is going to be a lot easier for me and others like me who are in town often without a car.

  • Chas Wiederhold

    Not a taxi rider… so I feel pretty unemotional about this. Pretty scathing intro here, though. A lot of those taxi drivers are people using what they know to make a living; immigrants, returning citizens. People have to start somewhere and this critique, however fair, ignores that bit.

    • Eric Douglas

      Elite in NKY uses new, black sedans. The cincy cabs I’ve ridden in feel like the back of a squad car that’s about to lose its doors.

    • I think what you bring up is a valid point, but a different matter than the service and how it’s operated. Most of the drivers have no ownership stake at all. In fact, after having spoken to several, the vast majority are independent drivers who go through a quick course, get certified and drive. There is no reason they couldn’t be drivers for these other operators.

    • Chas Wiederhold

      There are reasons that they couldn’t be drivers for these other operators. 1) No/Poor/Expired documentation w/out money or means to return to home country for appropriate documentation 2) Criminal background without hope for clemency. Those are off of the top of my head. I’m not trying to be militant or anything and research why Lyft and Uber are “bad”… I just think even if it is “embarrassing” or “poor” (claims that may or may not be true) it is as regrettable to ignore the economy the existing taxi system supports as it was when the Enquirer commented that the Dunnhumby Center would hopefully displace a wig shop, chinese restaurant, and pawn shop.

  • Neil Clingerman

    I’ve used Lyft in LA and it was significantly cheaper than the taxis. Only in Chicago are taxis competitive (but they are also some of the cheapest in the country too). I’m really looking forward to this when I’m back in Cincy (been wishing for this for a while).

    Taxis did a real number of private transportation btw, not many people know this, but they were formed as cartels and worked hard to eliminate more efficient/cheaper jitney service. Only a few places in the US like New Jersey allows this kind service to still operate, which there augments the public transit to provide even better levels of service to an already European level transit system. If you are in Union City NJ (right above the lincoln tunnel) you can literally catch transit to Manhattan every 2 mins.

  • pitbullstew

    Memo To Randy

    Oh Randy what a hack you are (pun intended) ha ha!

    I have read your article, so lets agree to disagree shall

    In the 1st place, as I read almost every where opinions from
    folks like yourself that somehow existing compliant taxi limo and para operators
    are some how monopolies, when in my opinion? They are companies that exist in
    their respective niche market and are compelled to operate under a strict set of
    regs rules and guidelines, in many instances certainly not of their choosing or
    liking. But they comply. Which is far and away more than the TNC’s you favor

    In city after city now your favored modus operandi has shown
    that TNC’s entice other wise law abiding individuals to put themselves and their
    vehicles out for hire with absolutely no permits, real background checks, nor
    pre requisite drug screens, or random drug screens there after, plus these TNC’s
    are NOT ADA (American With Disabilities Act) compliant in either who they
    service or in their hiring practices.

    These and that lil ol detail about personal insurance v real
    for hire livery commercial insurance that the TNC’s skirt with their excess
    lines coverage that really means that Joe Schmoe having driven for the TNC’s who
    gets in to an accident while conducting for hire services will see any claim
    denied and their policy canceled and he will be left liable there after having
    put everything he had ever worked for or will work for at economic

    And of course as all of this plays out what we have seen is
    that they impose surge (price gouging) pricing during high demand or during
    times of emergency, price gouging of a sort that is illegal when it comes to
    raising the costs of food water and gasoline? A pricing scheme that may well
    prove to be the subject of an FTC action for violation of interstate commerce
    and banking laws before all is said and done?

    But of course just so long as you and your like minded cohorts
    get cheap transportation as those who work hard play by the rules and pay their
    taxes see their livelihoods destroyed and lose their jobs that support their
    families as the TNC’s don’t #playbytherules, that’s just hunky dory to you as
    you are willing to leave every TNC driver potentially named as a co defendant to
    any possible future civil or criminal legal action for their predatory business
    practices of destabilizing an already well regulated industry


    • zschmiez

      Yet, in most major cities where Uber already exists, it works splendidly with great reviews.

    • Neil Clingerman

      Me thinks you’re a troll with the taxi lobby. Look at this guy’s post history people.

    • Eric Douglas

      Your general anti-competition argument is inherently monopolistic. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-02-06/chicago-cabbies-sue-over-unregulated-uber-lyft-services.html

    • I think that you are right when you say that there are serious issues still to work out with these new operators. My problem is not with taxicab companies being a monopoly, which I never suggested, but rather their resistance to improve their services. In some cities, typically where laws mandate it, taxicab companies use modern payment technologies and have new, fuel efficient vehicles. This is not the case in the vast majority of cities in the U.S., and Cincinnati’s situation is really terrible.

      I personally use taxis quite often since I do not have a car. There is a need for me. I do, however, cringe every time I need to do so in Cincinnati. That’s a problem. I suspect the emergence of these new operators will force some change.

  • matimal

    I have never felt the need to use a taxi in Cincinnati. Not once. I use them in other places, but not when I’m traveling alone or late at night. I wonder if I would use this new service.

  • pitbullstew

    LYFT LOUNGE: We don’t need no stinkin’ insurance

    (Lyft Lounge is a Facebook page for Lyft drivers, many
    of whom were stunned when their personal car insurance was canceled once it was
    discovered they were driving commercially for LYFT.)

    Very revealing. Open now: http://phantomcabdriverphites.blogspot.com/2013/07/news-from-lyft-lounge-insurance-we-dont.html

    • Eric Douglas

      Isn’t that for them to worry about?

  • Eric Douglas

    Always glad to see more options. The Cincy cabbies have had the market cornered for years with KY cabs being allowed to drop off in OH but not pick up. Newport Yellow Cab and Elite service downtown better than any Cincy cabs I’ve used and are a few dollars cheaper.

  • Uber has officially launched in Cincinnati as of today. You can read some more information here: http://blog.uber.com/now_in_cincy. They are offering free rides for the first two weeks. You can also follow them on Twitter at @Uber_Cincy.

  • James

    Don’t waste your time!

    After learning of Uber’s arrival to the Cincinnati area I was excited to signup through your website. After wasting 2 hours of my time, watching your on-line training, taking photographs of my vehicle, imaging documents and adding personal and sensitive information I was called this morning for the interview. Within the first few minutes I was told my Cadillac CTS is too old! My car is in perfect mechanical condition and has no damage to its interior or exterior. Its a 2005. You really think people with new cars are going to put mileage on their personal vehicles to earn pennies? Then to add insult, I was asked if I plan to purchase a new vehicle within the next two weeks. Yeah, i’m going to invest in a new vehicle so that I can add endless mileage and decrease the value of the new vehicle.

    Uber should be ashamed for having me waste my time when all you would need to do is include the fact that you require a 06 or newer vehicle. Change the drop down so that you can not select an older year! I have opened / filed a complaint with the BBB and also sent information to the Ohio Attorney General’s office as I do not believe this is legal nor honest with people trying to partner with Uber.

  • Nicholas Littlejohn

    Polluting gasoline vehicles are so old school..electric cars are the fun future!

  • nick

    There will always be a need for taxi service in Cincinnati,Uber and Lyft
    are giving the same services as taxis, hopefully they can keep it up
    on the long run.

    Nick Mir ,
    Cincinnati Ohio Yellow Taxi
    (513) 400-4251