Mexico City is a metropolis gem to the world. Massive in its expanse with a deep sense of history and a dynamic nightlife that suits a young crowd, it is sadly maligned by its reputation for violent crime. While the city has apparently improved vastly in the last 10 years, it is significant to mention that a prevailing culture of misogyny and machoism has made it feel sometimes an unsafe place for woman to travel through, especially at night.
Tatiana Kukanova has lived in Mexico City for nearly 20 years now. Listening to her experiences as a young woman in this sprawling urban mass, the conversation quickly goes to safety and independence. I was quick to ask her about the relationship between technology and her psycho-geography of the capital, afforded by Uber taxis.
¨Without Uber, I would often rely on private taxi firms or arrange lifts with friends known to drive¨ she reminisced. ¨There was always a sense of dread going out on a Friday. What if I lost my friend and subsequently my ride home? It was easy to lose your friends at a party! ¨
Tatiana would weigh up the situation. The urge to socialise against the fear of being stranded or taking the chances with private taxi hire was constant dilemma
¨There were private taxi companies, but the horror stories surrounding them made for low feelings towards the end of the night. ¨
Tatiana ultimately would often sacrifice her independence for her safety and abstain from evening invitations.
Benefits of Uber
introduction of Uber to the city has transformed the way she
interacts with it. The rise of phone technologies (GPS and video
capabilities) to finally make a programme offering direct contact
with a safe taxi driver, centralised by a operating company that
provides real time vehicle location, has opened up the city’s
nightlife to more people and importantly, empowered woman to travel
alone and independently.
An average journey of 30 mins is costed at a fraction to that of other private taxi hire and as such has become an essential part of travel across the city. Safety to personal security
Having the benefit of real time vehicle location, monitored by the phones application, the personal security of both passenger and driver has greatly improved. Tatiana described the sense of relief in not only knowing her location in the city but having the facility for her flatmates to also monitor her journey. ¨Having this relief has made me take ownership of my life and I have a stronger relationship with my city as a result she said.
Fair employment or exploitation over the markets
Despite the overwhelming advantages of Mexico City hosting Uber, there has been significant issues surrounding fair pair and competition with other companies. Uber drivers are encouraged to work longer as the savings to the consumer are covered by the cheap wages of the drivers. Of course, the company itself takes a substantial cut of each fare.
Other private firms now bar Uber drivers from certain key taxi ranks across the city. They have been priced out of the common market for inner city transportation. So, the presence of Uber to Mexico City hasn’t been a complete success.
Hopes for the future
Whilst enjoying the benefits of safe travel, Tatiana understands the need for fair pay, hoping that the service will remain a fixture of travel across the city. So, with the fares increasing in price, albeit slowly, she hopes for an overall improvement to the driver’s work standards will assure her of Uber remaining, along with her sense of independence.