In just two weeks, the Coachella Valley will become a music mecca. The beginning of the festival season kicks off with Coachella and thousands of people will flood into town, many of them, looking for a ride throughout the weekend. "Eighty-five thousand additional people to our peak season which should bring an additional12,000 rides to the taxi industry," said Michael Jones, the SunLine taxi administrator.
To meet the needs of these continually growing crowds, SunLine finalized plans to expand cab services with American Cab. American will bring in 100 more taxis for the three weekends of Coachella and Stagecoach. The plan to expand service came about after the Indio City Council encouraged SunLine Regulatory Staff and Goldenvoice to meet and discuss how to best move concert attendees around the Valley. After meeting with Goldenvoice, SunLine staff engaged all three local taxi franchises to discuss a temporary expansion of taxi services. "There's huge, huge events and the cab companies really wanted to help that out so American Cab brought this in," said Andrea Carter, the spokesperson for American Cab in the desert.
The cab companies were also motivated by a new partnership between festival promoter Goldenvoice and Uber. The phone app connects people to their choice of nearby private cars using GPS. All transactions happen using a credit card you program into the app. But, because Uber drivers oftentimes don't follow the same requirements as cab drivers, their practices raise concerns. "Regulations are set at SunLine, and the cab companies all follow those, so you know what you're going to get with a cab company," said Carter.
It's the same discussion at other places Uber drives, even escalating into a lawsuit in Seattle. The cab operator's association is suing Uber for "harming the economic interests of taxicab drivers." Uber released this statement in response to the lawsuit:
"Uber remains focused on connecting people with the safest and most reliable transportation options in Seattle and protecting the thousands of small business jobs created by our technology platform. It is unfortunate that the taxi industry is not similarly focused on what really matters: safety of riders and opportunity for drivers."
Here in the desert, cab companies plan to wait and see what kind of impact Uber makes, but for now, putting their energy into their own businesses. "We're focusing on what we're doing for the community, we're focusing on the fact that we provide safe and reliable transportation," said Jones.
The taxis will also be needed for other events like the White Party which coincides with Stagecoach this year.