Ride-sharing company Uber has shaken up the taxi industry by dismantling traditional practices, entering the local market in August with cashless service that allows customers to order up a ride using an app on their smart phones.
Richmond’s dominant cab company says it’s ready to strike back.
Napoleon Taxi is set to launch N-Route on Dec. 15. The app mirrors Uber’s ability to hail rides through GPS but without the drawbacks that owner Jonathan Trainum says come with the San Francisco-based company — mainly its unwillingness to accept cash and drivers with less rigorous background checks.
“It’s a hybrid of infrastructure and technology,” Trainum says of the app, calling it “an alternative for people who see through Uber.”
Before it came to Richmond, Uber overcame a statewide ban amid concerns that it doesn’t follow cab-driver licensing standards and doesn’t require drivers to have commercial vehicle insurance.
The impact of Uber’s arrival has been difficult to gauge. The company won’t reveal how many drivers it has hired locally. A spokeswoman says only that there are “hundreds” servicing the Richmond area.
But Trainum says he’s been able to see the results in his bottom line, with business down between 5 and 10 percent since August. He worked on N-Route for more than six months in advance of Uber’s arrival, and will make it available to other local cab companies.
“I don’t want to take on Uber alone,” he says.