Relying on a ridesharing gig to make money ain't what it used to be

Originally published at:


That said, not all is doom and gloom within the gig economy. According to the same study, those that make a little extra cheddar from leasing out their apartments with services like Airbnb are currently enjoying 69% gains to their bottom line.



Most rental agreements prohibit subletting any part of your apartment. So Airbnb is for property owners. By and large, the people who take gig jobs to make ends meet are renters, not owners, and are not going to be renting out a room on Airbnb. We’re talking two entirely different socioeconomic classes.

TLDR version of the linked article: tech business founded on exploiting workers discovered to be immiserating those who work for it. Tech business founded on enriching property owners (while taking a cut) found to be increasing the income of those who use it. Film at 11.


To be fair to Uber (I just threw up a little in my mouth when I wrote that.) The study looks at total earnings per driver rather that earnings per hour.

Both Uber and Lift claim that they have more drivers who are only working occasional hours while early on more were driving close to full time.

If true, it’s a fair point.

Isn’t that simply market laws at work? There is a bottomless supply of drivers, because anyone can be a driver, so the competition leads drivers earning towards zero. There is a limited supply of rentable property in tourist areas, so the price of tourist rents stays afloat.

Which also shows that the so-called “invisible hand f the market” is not always that efficient at regulating things. Case in point: Europe still regulates taxi drivers in many places and the result is not too bad. Not perfect, but one finds taxis and the drivers make a decent living.


One of the main reasons we have ridesharing here in the USA is that when we have regulated taxis, there is a healthy grab by the good old American not-so-invisible hand of corruption.

From 2012:

By converting a portion of cabbies’ future revenue into a freely tradable asset, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and a host of other cities have created a powerful investor class, medallion owners and financiers, whose interests routinely compete with those of drivers and passengers.

“Compete” may be the wrong word, however, since owners of the aluminum placards don’t have much experience with losing. Over the last decade, their victories have driven the price of a medallion from around $200,000 to more than $1 million in New York. Medallion owners from Boston to San Francisco have been similarly fortunate, with medallions in Chicago appreciating even faster than the sustained 16 percent per year gains seen in New York.

New York fares have gone up six times over the last 30 years, yet drivers’ real income has fallen because of rising gas prices and surging medallion leasing costs. Bhairavi Desai, the head of New York’s nonprofit Taxi Workers Alliance, isn’t far from the mark when she calls the current system “feudal.”

The public hasn’t fared much better. Deep-pocketed medallion owners have hijacked public policy through lobbying and legal challenges. Just last week medallion owners won a legal victory blocking Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to create a fleet of “green cabs” to serve New York’s outer boroughs, and last year medallion owners successfully stymied New York’s attempt to shift to hybrid taxis.


_Most rental agreements prohibit subletting any part of your apartment. So Airbnb is for property owners. _

I would estimate more than half the AirBnB places I’ve stayed in are rentals being sub-let. Hell, on several occasions I’ve even had the “landlord” tell me not to speak to other people in the house because they might be pissed at a room being sub-let. There’s “rules” and then there’s reality.


Hasn’t this always been the case? It’s great to make some pizza money, but if everyone is trying to make a living, it’s a fight.

Freelance and part time work has long existed, a value to both employee and employer. A chance to make some pizza money, a chance to make money when something else is your primary focus. A chance to fill a temporary need, be it a busy holiday or a specialized need.

But the shift is to contract out, making everyone competitors for the job, the winner taking the lowest salary. Lots of cars roaming around looking for that fare, one reason to limit the number of taxis.

I keep thinking of The Grapes of Wrath, the farmers printing endless cheap handbills, getting lots of workers so they can pick the crops fast, but wage because the supply of labor exceeds the demand for it.

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That’s part of the problem. What policies can we enact that will move us toward a shortage of labor rather than a surplus?

Indeed, that was the main reason Uber could be cheaper and fill a void. Not only medallions were expensive, they were also rare and therefore there were not enough taxis on the streets.

The same effect happens in some European cities, Paris for example. I would not necessarily call that corruption, it just is the effect of a limited asset (“medallions” or taxi licenses) being valuable. In Paris taxi licenses became an investment for the drivers: they got one in the 70s when they were cheap and would sell it when they stopped working and that would contribute to their pensions. When, in response to Uber, Paris authorities discussed increasing the number of licenses, drivers pointed out that the loss in value would lower their pensions.

The situation in Europe never got as bad as in the USA, however. Maybe the reason was that taxis compete with a much better public transport system in Europe.

A shortage of labor is just as big a problem than a surplus of labor, actually. We want both to be somewhat balanced. That is difficult.

If the medallion holders have the political clout to keep the supply of medallions from increasing, that’s corruption.

Yeah it is, but to different people :slight_smile:

I thought the correct word was “lobbying”.

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