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Uber’s competitors in NYC are growing like crazy

Daniel Roberts

While Uber is still by far the biggest private taxi app in New York City, its competitors are making rapid gains in the market.

Lyft, Juno, and Gett are all climbing just at a time when Uber is vulnerable, beset by a series of separate scandals involving harassment allegations, workplace culture, unflattering video footage, and surreptitious masking programs.

According to data from the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), Lyft, Juno, and Via, at the end of January, were all at the highest number of trips-per-day they’ve ever been. (Gett has seen a slight decline since December.) TLC data for the month of February, when Uber has most suffered from scandal, isn’t yet available.

Uber launched in New York back in 2011. Lyft and Gett both launched in New York in 2014; Via (which offers only carpooling, not solo rides) launched in 2015; Juno just launched in New York (and is still only operating in New York) in May 2016.

Look at the chart below that uses public TLC daily-ride data (collected by Todd Schneider, an engineer at annotation company Genius). Juno, especially, has seen hockey-stick growth since May, climbing from fewer than 1,000 trips per day to 23,700 at the end of January.

TLC data on Lyft, Via, Juno, and Gett (Todd W. Schneider)
TLC data on Lyft, Via, Juno, and Gett (Todd W. Schneider)

And Juno has enjoyed that growth without any paid marketing; it’s all been word-of-mouth. Juno CEO Talmon Marco believes that’s proof that the taxi-app market, crowded though it may be, still has ample room to compete.

“Look, it’s not easy to build a ride-sharing company,” Marco tells Yahoo Finance. “There are a lot of upfront costs and complexities—frankly, far more than we thought when we started the company. But at the same time, it’s still early. The fact that we were able to capture market share right away in the most competitive market in the world is a testament to that.”

Juno offers new customers 30% off for the first month of use, and the receipt it sends after a ride tells you precisely how much more money your driver made through Juno than they would have made on “a competitor.” (Gee, which competitor might they mean?)

On one recent ride from Brooklyn into Manhattan, a Juno driver who also drives for Uber, and did not wish to be named, said he makes more money per ride with Juno, but more money overall from Uber because of the higher volume of ride orders.

The driver, when asked about Uber’s recent issues, said, “There’s a very nice saying: ‘When you go up, say hello to everybody, so that when you go back down, someone will give you a hand.’ This guy [Uber CEO Travis Kalanick] is too rude. I hope his investors realize and take their business somewhere else.”

Two-hundred thousand people reportedly deleted the Uber app from their phones after the hashtag #DeleteUber began trending during protests in New York to President Trump’s travel ban at the end of January. Andrew Butash, founder of social travel app Gypsy Circle, was one of them. “Uber crossing the picket-line was the last straw for me,” he says, referring to Uber promoting its service while city cabs were on strike in solidarity with the protest. “Aside from all the other issues that have come up in the past with the company, this move was the tipping point. I’d rather walk than use Uber.”

But Uber, as market leader, can spare some attrition—for now.

Make no mistake: Uber is still much bigger in New York than its closest competitor, Lyft. Uber serves up 6.2 times more daily rides than Lyft (272,000 to 44,000) and has three times as many cars on the street (42,000 to 14,000).

In fact, Uber now serves up very close to the same number of rides per day as the city’s yellow cabs: it was 313,000 (cabs) to 272,000 (Uber) at the end of January. And look at the daily rides for yellow cabs: it’s steadily declining. Those two lines will intersect imminently.

TLC data on yellow cabs, Uber, and Lyft (Todd W. Schneider)
TLC data on yellow cabs, Uber, and Lyft (Todd W. Schneider)

Uber and Lyft both now have more vehicles in New York than there are cabs: 42,000 for Uber, 14,000 for Lyft, and 13,000 yellow cabs. Lyft nearly doubled its total number of drivers in the past year (it now has 700,000) and is now in more than 100 cities; Uber is in more than 300 cities.

But while Uber has enough dominance to weather some scandal, its lead is shrinking.

Rival taxi-app executives were hesitant to talk about Uber and its struggles on the record. Most appear to be taking a heads-down approach, hoping to organically pick up some of Uber’s deserters without publicly bashing the top dog.

Juno CEO Marco will only say: “The theory of our company is that if you’re nice to the drivers, they will be nice to the riders, and the riders will be happier, and everything will be better. It’s self-fueling.”

Juno says its daily rides were up 20% in February. Uber and Lyft declined to share any February ride data.

Daniel Roberts is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering sports business and technology.

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