You Got to Be Kidding Me!

Call Me a Cab! …Ok, You’re a Cab

Posted in Economics, Social Life, Travel by Stacy McMahon on September 28, 2006

In London a couple years ago, Vicky and I joined her old bridge-playing buddy Jason for a night of clubbing. Jason warned me that British girls are snobbish and unfriendly, and he was right, but it was a fun evening anyway. One of the more interesting parts came near the end when we took a ‘black’ or unregistered cab back to the hotel. This was just a guy making some extra cash by driving people around at night, and quite a bit cheaper than a real cab. Of course you can’t visit London without riding in the funky oldtime cabs, and we did take one of those to the Eurostar terminal the next day.

I thought about that this morning when a coworker joked that he’s going to make a lot of money driving a cab today, since several of us need rides to a going-away lunch. I’ve taken two cab rides in the past week or so, once from National to my house on the way home from California, and another from Japone to Rosslyn when the metro unexpectedly closed at midnight instead of 2am like I thought. Both were $15-20 including tip, which strikes me as a pretty nice hourly rate.

Of course that’s the benefit of the artificial scarcity created by the taxi licensing system, but like most regulatory systems it creates an opportunity for freeriding. In each of my cab rides, the distance was around 5 miles. You probably have to drive around a bit in between fares, but let’s say you have a 5-mile fare for every 10 miles driven. The standard mileage deduction on your taxes is 42 cents, so that’s a cost of $4.20 for your ten miles of driving. If you undercut the pros by $5 then you’re pulling in, conservatively, around $6 for your ten miles. If you can do that 3 times an hour, that’s $18/hr.

So, if you call yourself a cab for 3 hours a night 2-3 times a week, that’s all your going-out money. Not a bad little racket, especially if you’re a student of humanity (or of drunk girls coming home from the club!)

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One Response

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  1. Vickyhttp://tgaw.wordpress.com said, on September 28, 2006 at 7:39 pm

    I wrote about those cab drivers! From my May 31, 2004 journal entry:

    -=-=-=-=–=
    After the club closed, the mob of people filtered out into the street. We were greeted by a fleet of enterprising young men who take it upon themselves to drive people home. It’s called mini-cabs. Not regular cabs, just Joe Schmoos looking for extra cash.

    I can easily picture my father driving a mini-cab.

    They didn’t have meters so the fares were decided with good ole bartering.

    The first guy we asked for High Street Kensington replied, “25 pounds.”

    I turned my head and there was another mini-cab hopeful. I asked him the same question.

    “20 pounds,” he replied.

    I turned back to the original driver, “He says 20 pounds, can you beat that?”

    The original driver stood firm, “25 pounds.” he replied.

    You know– kudos to him. He knew what he wanted and didn’t take any less. I respect his steadfastness.

    [But no where near enough to give him my business! :)]

    In fact– we were walking away from all of them in search of a real taxi– when one mini-cab driver chased us down and offered to take Jason and his friend to Waterloo Station and then me and Stacy to High Kensington Street for 30 pounds total. So we went with that.


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