These are tough times to be a taxi driver in Anchorage-- and they have not been shy about letting the assembly and City Hall know, but their road is paved with some unavoidable potholes.

The overall local economy is struggling. The city is issuing more than 100 new permits over a five-year period-- which started last year. Added to that competition is a slew of new Uber and Lyft drivers.

The ride-hailing companies are approved by the state and are largely unregulated by the city. And it’s all having an impact.

A taxi permit worth more than $150,000 four years ago is now worth less than $6000. 

There are more than 700 licensed chauffeurs in Anchorage. Those who must work full time as cabbies are increasingly pushed to the edges of the industry, dependant on after-hour fares and clients who can only pay in cash.

And all too often, they are targets of crime and violence.

Two-thirds are immigrants,  according to the city. Drivers like Ahmed Hassan, who escaped the violence in Somalia, only to be assaulted on the streets of Anchorage in an armed robbery.

Taxi drivers deserve a chance to make a living.

But here’s the Reality Check. As private entrepreneurs, there are never any guarantees of success. The taxi industry is just the latest business model to fall victim to technology.

Ask anyone who used to work for newspapers, bookstores or record shops. Chances are your kids have never seen a typewriter, will never buy a CD, or rewind a VHS. They may never take a taxi either.

Ride-hailing apps have changed the way we move around.

In time, a taxi may be as hard to find as a Blockbuster. And while change isn’t bad, being caught in the transition can be devastating.

So, taxi drivers deserve our sympathy. But, if they want our business they will have to adapt or find a niche, because technology makes things easier, faster and cheaper.

And consumers like that. It may not seem fair, but given a choice between tradition and technology, technology, it seems, always ends up in the driver’s seat.

John's opinions are his own and are not necessarily that of Denali Media or its employees. 

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