The C Is for Crank

When was the last time you rode in a taxi driven by a woman? Based on my own experience (at least in Seattle), my guess is probably never. Nationally, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, 13 percent of drivers are women, but that includes chauffers for limousines and other black-car services in addition to traditional taxis. 

In contrast—according to the blog The Transportation Planner—car and ridesharing services like Uber are creating a "positive disruptive force" on cities' transportation systems by empowering women to make money by entering the traditionally male-dominated car-service field—a field in which women typically feel particularly vulnerable.

They do this, blogger Michael Rodriguez writes, in two ways: By eliminating cash transactions—all payments are made by smartphone—companies like Uber dramatically decrease the likelihood that a driver will be robbed, lowering one major barrier to entry for female drivers.

And by requiring all riders to register with the company and book rides on their phones in advance, the system eliminates much of the personal risk inherent in picking random strangers up on the street. Put another way, a potential attacker will be less likely to attack a driver because the company knows their identity and is monitoring their ride.

Although Uber's spokeswoman has not returned an email seeking the gender breakdown of their driver base, Paige Thelen, a spokeswoman for Lyft, the pink-mustache ridesharing service, estimates that about 40 percent of their drivers nationally, and about 60 percent of their riders, are women. 

That's more than three times the percentage of female limo taxi drivers—and another potential argument against proposed city council rules that would protect the traditional taxi industry by imposing new restrictions—including limits on the number of drivers who can register with ridesharing services and the number of hours those drivers can work each week.

The next meeting of the city's taxi oversight committee is at 2pm on January 30, at City Hall.

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