What if each City cab were to have a bright green light which, when lit, indicates fares are half of the normal price? During off-peak times I can cruise for nearly as long as an hour without a fare. When it’s dead at 4 in the morning I’ll often drive by people stuck waiting for the MUNI. God knows when a bus will finally show, but the regular cost of a cab is still too much for them. What about half-price? Would that be enough to convert some people to take a cab?
Conversely, what if each cab were to have a bright red light which, when lit, indicates fares are double price? (Or, perhaps 150% of the regular fare.) At peak times it can be nearly impossible for people to hail a cab. Doubling the price would significantly cut down on demand for cabs. At this price some people would consider other options including, but not limited to, splitting cabs with strangers to save money.
Would this result in higher incomes for cab drivers during both peak and non-peak shifts? Or, would it just ‘even out’? Would this result in higher economic utility (usefulness) for customers? People may grumble at the double or 150% fare, but those that ‘really’ need a cab would be much more able to find one during peak times. And with half-price fares in the wee hours of the morning, MUNI exiles would have a safe and quick way home.
Right now we have neither variable pricing nor variable supply of taxicabs. Drivers get screwed at off-peak times, while customers get screwed during peak-times. Of course, variable pricing for taxicabs is just a thought experiment — I think it would prove too difficult to implement. But, it’s an interesting alternative to the more realistic option of variable supply, known as ‘peak medallions‘, which I strongly support.