Taxi tariffs in the region are expensive and compare unfavourably even with Paris or London. French-side taxis are cheaper, but fewer and far between. The trade is highly regulated with virtual monopolies or cartels operating without any real threat of competition. The operators justify their rates by arguing that they provide a safe, secure and reliable service. This may now change.
A couple of years ago, a Swiss start-up, Tooxme, launched a service whereby volunteer drivers and passengers are matched via their smart phones. In short, a passenger calls for a ride via the Tooxme app and any available app-registered driver can accept the call. The cost is calculated based on distance at CHF 0.99/km. Payment is made via the app. Both driver and passenger have to rate the other for the peace of mind of future customers and drivers.
Now a US firm, Uber, is staging an entry to the region. Already operating in Zurich, it says it will launch in Geneva, offering a similar model with a smoother interface and more business-like approach. The company may provide a competition that will raise Tooxme’s game, but also undermine the cartel. If that happens, traditional operators may no longer be in the driving seat.