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  (Source: LA Times)
Taxi unions say government regulation is essential to "safeguard" the public from itself

The U.S. isn't exactly a "free market" at times, with outright bribery -- condoned by the U.S. judicial system -- or collusive public-private cartels leading to some products and services being banned from the market.  Just ask Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA) whose electric vehicles have been banned from sale in many states.  That debacle arose due to the fact that Tesla has no dealerships and fearful dealership lobbyists banded together to pay off state politicians to ban direct auto sales.

I. Carpooling Gets Digital Era Makeover

Now the same principle is being applied to stymie the emergency of another set of companies in the transportation sector -- cloud-driven ride-sharing services.

Ridesharing -- also known as carpooling -- involves members of the public contacting each other via a smartphone or PC internet networking service and arranging to ferry each other to various destinations for fees.  The practice in informal form is almost as old as the automobile itself, but in the digital age app-enabled ridesharing has seen an explosion in interest, threatening the commercial taxicab industry and the city officials who depend on that industry for revenue.

Uber
Uber is among the pioneering startups in cloud apps for paid carpooling/ridesharing.
[Image Source: Uber]

California often is characterized as a leader in onerous regulation, but at times it can flirt with being laissez-faire.  

On a state level, that has been the case with ride-sharing.  Many companies in the field are based in California and rolled out their first services in the state.  Startup ridesharing services Sidecar, Uber, and Lyft are all based in San Francisco, Calif.

Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar

After initially threatening fines against these in-state startups, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) backed down and agreed to create a new regulatory category [PDF] -- "Transportation Network Companies".  While perhaps not as good as no regulation at all, the move has allowed the service to grow within California without fear of being banned at the behest of the threatened taxicab lobby.

Ridesharing celebration
Ridesharing supporters celebrate CPUC's decision not to ban carpooling for cash.
[Image Source: Lyft]

Elsewhere, the trio are proving less lucky.  

All of the ride-sharing companies operate on the same principle, claiming that their fares are "voluntary" and admittedly fluctuating based on supply and demand.  Because they aren't charging rigid rates, they claim they are not subject to local ordinances in various cities that require taxicabs to pay per-cab tolls to city transportation departments/agencies.

Cities transportation agencies are pretty upset about not getting their cut of the pie.  They've circled the wagons in many jurisidictions, backed by the traditional taxicab industry who views these disruptive new players as an unlawful threat.

II. Philadelphia Shows Sidecar Drivers no "Brotherly Love"

The funny thing is that many cities supported ride-sharing as part of "eco-concious" initiatives when it was on a smaller scale and largely greenwashing.  But once it expanded and money became involved many cities had seen enough.

Sidecar -- a Google Inc. (GOOG) funded venture -- opened operations in Philadelphia, Penn., the "City of Brotherly Love" in late 2012.  But of late there's been little love for the disruptive startup from the city government.  

Sidecar infographic

In 2013 the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) -- a city authority that derives its revenue from taxicab licensing -- decided it was time to put a stop to the business, which hadn't paid its toll.  It conducted a sting, seizing cars, ticketing drivers, and shutting down the operation.  Marty O’Rourke a PPA spokesman told TechCrunch:

[Sidecar drivers are] passing themselves off as taxis and they’re not.  It’s clearly not about technology. This is about public safety.  [The sting] was an operation to impound vehicles because they were operating illegally. If we find them out there again, we’ll impound them again.

Sidecar vigorously disagreed.  It points out that its drivers don't claim to be taxi drivers and are simply engaging in the time honored practice of carpooling with a small fee for the time and gas.

Philadelphia
Philadelpha, Penn. has banned ridesharing. [Image Source: Visit Philly]

This month Sidecar was in court to try to defend itself, but it has yet to win the right to deliver services again or get some of its property back in Philadelphia.

III. Gotta Ban 'em All

Likewise Austin, Texas saw outcry from taxicab drivers who successfully petitioned the Austin City Council to in Feb. 2013 send cease and desist letters to the ride-sharing service ahead of the yearly South-by-Southwest (SXSW) festival.  Sidecar took advantage of the publicity, offering rides for free to spite city regulators.  But later in 2013 it had basically ceased operations in the city.  It's trying to petition the City Council to reconsider via a Change.org petition (which closed with 3,727 signatures), and local business leaders have also asked the council to change its mind.  But so far there has been no breakthrough.

Sidecar mirror
Austin, Texas has also banned Sidecar, Uber, and Lyft. [Image Source: Yelp]

Sidecar's last opportunity for action in Austin is the courts, where it filed a lawsuit in Mar. 2013.  Company VP Margaret Ryan blogs:

This lawsuit is bigger than Austin, Texas. What happens here matters for the entire sharing economy. Sharing resources is not a crime – it’s a solution for a better and more sustainable way of life. Rideshare is good for Austin and we’re going to defend this position in Austin City Court.

Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar all operate in Seattle, but in February the city council passed an ordinance that Sidecar says will effectively ban ridesharing in the city, if it takes effect.  That oridinance does not outright prohibit ridesharing, but limits each company to 150 passengers/drivers on the road at once.

Minneapolis, Minn. in Feb. 2014 announced it would ban/ticket any Lyft drivers who did not file for expensive taxicab licenses and would do likewise for participants in any other popular ride-sharing service.

Taxicab protest
Taxicab unions protest against Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar in San Francisco -- unregulated by the government, means a product is unsafe, they say. [Image Source: AP] 

In New York City -- where taxicab licenses ("medallions') cost up to $1M USD -- crackdowns are also picking up steam.  Efforts are also under way to ban the services in Las Vegas, Nev., Washington D.C., Chicago, Ill., and Cambridge, Mass..  In short the number of cities where paid carpoolers can legal operate is dwindling at an alarmingly rapid rate.

At this point quite literally the risk of carpooling is becoming that you will get your car impounded/seized and be forced to pay steep fines.

IV. California City Officials: If Paid Carpooling is Allowed Taxi Businesses Will Fail

But perhaps the most dire sign for Uber, Sidecar, and Lyft is that in their home state -- where they supposedly "won", local officials are threatening to do what state officials would not -- ban ridesharing.

Officials at the San Francisco International Airport in April 2013 banned the ridesharers from picking up or dropping off passengers at the airport.  

In June 2013 Los Angeles also banned ridesharing.  Los Angeles Yellow Cab manager William Rouse was elated at America's "captialist" system disallowing competition via strong-handed regulation.  He comments:

These rogue taxis are bypassing all safety regulations created to protect riders and drivers. Not only are these high-tech bandit cabs unsafe, they are breaking regulatory standards and disenfranchising safe, legal taxi drivers.

Lyft Lands
Lyft landed in LA -- and was promptly ordered to get out. [Image Source: Lyft]

And in San Francisco this month, city officials and taxicab drivers were eyeing a knockout blow to the carpoolers.  Comments Supervisor John Avalos:

We’ve gotten to almost a crisis mode.  We cannot let [the taxicab] industry fail.

Mark Gruberg, a spokesman for United Taxicab Workers, claims that carpoolers are a menace to society, stating:

People are being injured while they are fiddling, and their rules do not protect the public.  These are taxicabs in every sense of the word.

Lyft is banned
Lyft is too successful a business to be permitted, regulators argue. [Image Source: SF Examiner]

Critics are using a New Years Eve incident as a rallying cry.  On Dec. 31, 2013, a 6-year old in San Francisco was struck and killed by an Uber driver.  The driver was not transporting anyone at the time, but taxicab unions and the city departments that profit off them have gleefully seized upon the death as evidence that carpooling is "unsafe".

V. Taxi Business Owner Compares Carpoolers to Napster, Implies They're Stealing and Killing

Atlanta, Geor. Checker Cab owner/CEO Rick Hewlett writes in an op-ed:

Government has no more important responsibility than to provide for public safety, and many of our laws are for this purpose, including regulations covering vehicles for hire.

Because there is a clear potential for harm to life and limb when individuals are transported in automobiles by strangers, the reasons for regulating vehicles for hire, such as taxicabs and limousines, are obvious and crucial. Accordingly, there is a compelling need for government oversight and standards pertaining to all aspects of the vehicle for hire business.

Yellow Cab
Cab unions say if cities allow a free market and allow citizens to use their cars for carpooling businesses, they won't be able to stay in business. [Image Source: LA Times]

 
Chris Dolan, the San Francisco lawyer who is suing Uber over the New Year's Eve death comments to Mr. Hewlett:

New technology does not eliminate well-established legal principles.
 
Uber accident
The Uber driver's New Year's Eve accident may have given taxicabs unions and their government buddies just enough PR firepower to kill the ridesharing market. [Image Source: SF Chronicle]

But if carpooling is illegal, the question becomes where should the government stop.  After all, what about a roommate who gives you money for a ride to the grocery store?  What about a group of friends who pool their money to go to a concert?  If app-connected carpooling is illegal, aren't those people also breaking the law?

Mr. Hewlett didn't write about such examples, but he did compare Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar to Napster, the infamous P2P company that based its business on stealing musicians' copyrighted work.  

Lyft
Will Lyft and others be destined for a slow, sad ride into the sunset? [Image Source: Lyft]

No matter how crazy that comparison it is, it's not atypical.  Ride sharing and carpooling for pay in the U.S. -- once a booming field of dreams -- has been methodically shut down and beaten back by the loving hand of government regulators and taxicab industry.  Thanks to those cartels, this once thriving sector is now on the death's door, as the nation's top cities approach a ubiquitous ban on sharing, which they say is anything but caring.

Sources: SF Examiner, Lyft and Sidecar, Fox News, California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) [PDF]



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RE: Seize your car?
By Al Jalaikakik on 4/4/2014 10:43:49 PM , Rating: 5
Agreed. Also, the first time a car is SEIZED for doing this, citizens should SHUT THE CAB COMPANIES DOWN by protesting, blocking them, disabling their vehicles.


RE: Seize your car?
By JasonMick (blog) on 4/5/2014 12:37:33 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
Agreed. Also, the first time a car is SEIZED for doing this, citizens should SHUT THE CAB COMPANIES DOWN by protesting, blocking them, disabling their vehicles.
Actually, as I wrote in the article... 3 cars of the people using the Sidecar app in Philadelphia were impounded/seized.

The title wasn't speculative, it was what actually has been done several times and will likely be done again.

It's possible the people got their cars back with fees, but knowing some people who got their cars impounded in my local urban area, you often have to pay $500-1,000 USD and have only a few weeks to pay before the city takes ownership, so many people are unable to pay or can't figure it out and just lose their vehicle.

To my knowledge there was no large protest in Philly... but Americans are rather complacent about such things these days.

The sign the one guy is holding...
quote:
Unregulated=Unsafe
...sounds like some sort of April Fool's joke (GM?!?), but it's actually the attitude of a lot of people in the country. A lot of people are more than willing to surrender their property so that the government can "protect" us.


RE: Seize your car?
By Reflex on 4/5/2014 2:37:54 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know how much travel outside of the country you have done, Jason, but having just returned from China I can tell you that the regulated system we have now is far preferable to what I found there, or in India or other nations with unregulated systems. There was literally no way to know if you were getting in a 'real' taxi or not, or even if you would necessarily reach your destination or get extorted. The cabs were filthy, the driving was substandard and often frightening, and there was no fee schedule posted anywhere, it was all negotiation.

Getting back to Seattle and hopping in a cab that was clean, with a driver who had to have a license to run the cab and as a result could be held accountable, with insurance in case of a problem, and where the price was up front was a huge relief.

I do think there is a place for Uber, Sidecar and others. But I think they need to follow the same rules that other taxi services follow, because the reasons for those rules do not go away simply due to being able to book online.


RE: Seize your car?
By coburn_c on 4/5/14, Rating: 0
RE: Seize your car?
By KurgSmash on 4/5/2014 4:36:44 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, it makes you sick, does it princess?

That's such a shame. Meanwhile the rest of us will let common sense and a free market guide us. If/when there's a problem with these services then by all means add _necessary and minimal_ regulations to solve that problem.

At this point all this is about is rank protectionism of buggy whip makers.. I mean Taxi Drivers.


RE: Seize your car?
By xfortis on 4/5/2014 5:05:11 PM , Rating: 2
It's hyperbole to consider that the existing cab industry will just be completely demolished by startup ridesharing. That's like saying AirBNB will kill the hotel industry - I have used and continue to use AirBNB regularly, BUT there are times when I pay for a hotel instead.

Industries don't disappear because of competition, they re-size: they adapt. You sound like you prefer an established cab service, and that's fine. It can't be denied, however, that the current establishment is high-cost which is ultimately the source of the popularity of ride-sharing.

A point that is not addressed by your preference for regulation is the dilemma of "drawing the line". While there are certainly good reasons (you highlighted) that regulations exist in the cab industry, do the ends justify the means for protecting said industry from competition? Are you comfortable with the curtailing of "lawful" borrowing and carpooling (for everyone) that protects an inefficient and non-innovative incumbent interest, simply because your personal preference is to hire a cabbie with a license?

**Side note: It's not fair to say that cabs in India and China are the way they are because they are "unregulated". For one thing, they certainly are regulated - Enforcement varies and there are many moonlighters and exceptions and corruption etc. that degrade that system. More importantly, however, is that those countries are developing - they face a superset of problems that faced America more than a hundred years ago. Regulation was part of the road from then to now for us, but I really doubt that if all cab regulations in the US were abolished tomorrow somehow service would degrade appreciably and people would be less safe even 20 years later - Consumers expect a certain level of service and business owners would ignore that at their peril.


RE: Seize your car?
By 1prophet on 4/6/2014 10:39:13 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
**Side note: It's not fair to say that cabs in India and China are the way they are because they are "unregulated". For one thing, they certainly are regulated - Enforcement varies and there are many moonlighters and exceptions and corruption etc. that degrade that system. More importantly, however, is that those countries are developing - they face a superset of problems that faced America more than a hundred years ago. Regulation was part of the road from then to now for us, but I really doubt that if all cab regulations in the US were abolished tomorrow somehow service would degrade appreciably and people would be less safe even 20 years later - Consumers expect a certain level of service and business owners would ignore that at their peril.


Sorry but no, that is a common fallacy perpetuated by apologists for other countries (usually 3rd world) by saying and believing somehow they must go through the same process to get to where America is today,

America had no examples, no knowledge from previous countries and had to pave the way by many trials and errors to get where we are today,

thanks to the modern information systems including the INTERNET (and the ability to travel to these 1st world countries and see first hand) less developed countries have the ability to research and learn from Americans mistakes and successes without going through them

since the knowledge and previous examples are available to them they don't need to evolve but rather willingly make a choice how to move forward since they have the benefits and knowledge of 1st world countries past mistakes and successes.


RE: Seize your car?
By JasonMick (blog) on 4/5/2014 5:11:16 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The cabs were filthy, the driving was substandard and often frightening, and there was no fee schedule posted anywhere, it was all negotiation.
Sounds like the average taxi in Vegas....

I really don't think you're understanding... it's not because lack of regulation that cabs are dirtier in China or India. It's supply and demand. Customers have less money to pay, older vehicles are used, drivers use them as storage spaces at times, people are more accustomed to clutter.

I've been in plenty of taxis in the U.S. driven by poor drivers and with a fair degree of dirt and sometimes even leftovers -- I'm assuming from previous riders?

Anyhow, if Lyft and Uber were as horrible as you suggest no one would use them. If anything I'm assuming these people are safer drivers (in general) and have cleaner vehicles (in general) than taxi fleets, given that U.S. taxi fleets in the U.S. often are comprised heavily of older, dirtier vehicles, staffed with foreigners whose driving is about as good as their English.

The market self-regulates when it comes to small-scale enterprise. When the government steps in, it's typically to favor one kind and exclude another.


RE: Seize your car?
By coburn_c on 4/5/14, Rating: -1
RE: Seize your car?
By JasonMick (blog) on 4/5/2014 6:51:30 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
If their standards are so high why are they not licensing themselves properly? Where in your article does it say they were precluded from becoming properly licensed taxi companies? The government stepped in long ago and made these laws, plenty of companies do business abiding by them. It's these and only these companies who have come along and broken them, and they are being excluded because they are unlicensed, illegal taxi operations.
You really don't get it? It's not that hard to understand...

Simple... $$

If I'm giving people rides 3-5 times a week in NYC because I enjoy the company and making up for my massive parking costs, I may be a great driver and have an immaculately clean car. But do I have $1M USD to get properly licensed?

If "getting properly licensed" was free, sure I get your argument.

But it never is. For any large city the transit authority gets thousands -- if not tens or hundreds of thousands (or in NYC's case millions) of dollars per taxicab per year. It has very little to do with good driving or clean cabs, or safety.

Cabbies hit people all the time. Cabbies have killed people. Many cabs are filthy. Many cabs are old. Many cab drivers are horrible drivers.

That's not what "licensing" is about.

Licensing is a protectionist racket. City officials agree to ban and exclude casual competitors (no matter what their merits), taxicab businesses pay up for their local anticompetitive protections.

Of course any time you rig the market quality suffers.

The reason why Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, Heyride, etc. are doing so well is that their drivers mostly actually speak English well, have clean, new cars, are friendlier, and drive safer than cab drivers.

But because they aren't willing to pay more money than they earn to get in on the licensing racket, they're getting banned.

You tell me how that is fair or ensures "quality", in your eyes?


RE: Seize your car?
By coburn_c on 4/6/14, Rating: -1
RE: Seize your car?
By JasonMick (blog) on 4/6/2014 4:52:09 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
Your xenophobia is hilarious. How dare those immigrants come to our country and get jobs driving people around?
You couldn't be more off base. I'm a strong support of diversity and the right to immigrate -- a foundation of this nation.

Exactly where did I say immigrants should not get jobs or that I opposed immigration??

I support immigration. I don't think you have to oppose immigration, just because you believe that employees in occupations that require a lot of human interaction should have reasonable proficiency in the language of the land.

If I moved to Sweden, I'd expect people would be irritated at me if I became a taxi driver and didn't bother to learn the local language fully.
quote:
Earning money for driving people around should be reserved for internet startups and rich white people with free time on their hands
Again you're making ridiculous leaps from what I actually said. What does being white have to do with speaking English and being friendly and approachable?

I know plenty of African, Asian, Hispanic, and people of a variety of other ethnicities who can all speak English clearly and interact with people in friendly fashion.

It is entirely accurate that my opinion is that human services jobs are best staffed by citizens who have strong conversation skills in the primary language of the land. However, I have no biases when it comes to the race of the employees. To suggest otherwise is a pure bullsh-t.

In the U.S. the primary language is English. If you can't speak English well (which is true of at least a third of the cabbies I've encountered personally) I'd advise you not to take a job that requires a high level of banter and interaction skills i.e. the transportation sector.

It'd make a lot more sense to go to technical college and go into IT or some other job that requires less human interaction, giving you the time necessary to learn the language of the land and properly immigrate.

Do you honestly think that's it's xenophobic to want people to proficiently speak the majority language of their nation of choice?

If you think that's unreasonable, too bad I guess, because most people around the world think you're wrong.
quote:
Why should we prevent the average Joe from using his minivan as a bus? Why should we prevent any average man with a hammer from being a carpenter? Those laws are just there to protect carpenters.
Really, you believe the government should ban people from using hammers to do their own carpentry?

That has to be one of the most alarmingly outlandish statements I've ever read here... and that's saying something

It appears you are truly insane.

People like you make me worry about the country.


RE: Seize your car?
By Mr772 on 4/7/2014 12:37:20 PM , Rating: 4
Jason you just fell prey to the typical liberal\progressive attack strategy. Insult you, lie about what you said and use abusive language in the process. Saul Alinsky playbook 101 followed perfectly. Xenophobe is one of their favorite name calling cards. They come out of the wood work when you question the government controlling every part of your life, or trying to suck every penny out of you to line the pockets of their friends and supporters.


RE: Seize your car?
By xti on 4/7/2014 12:42:54 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
It is entirely accurate that my opinion is that human services jobs are best staffed by citizens who have strong conversation skills in the primary language of the land. However, I have no biases when it comes to the race of the employees. To suggest otherwise is a pure bullsh-t.

In the U.S. the primary language is English. If you can't speak English well (which is true of at least a third of the cabbies I've encountered personally) I'd advise you not to take a job that requires a high level of banter and interaction skills i.e. the transportation sector.


interaction is optional with a cab driver. You give them the address or the passenger punches it in the screen and then the driver starts driving.

They dont have to ask about your trip the same way a hairstylist doesnt havent to ask you about how crappy your day is.

The problem is everyone overcomplicates everything now a days. Now we have to make sure our drivers can understand english? This is a cab driver, they aren't running your portfolio.

Just know what stop/green-yellow-red/ main street means, take me there, take your 10 bucks from me and that is all I really need you for.

You may know a bajillion people of hundreds of different races or creed, thats great. What no one ever states is that they know a family who doesn't know a lick of english but they can see they use every resource, energy or ounce of intelligence they have everyday to make up for the social handicap. Let alone say that it is admirable.

believe me, if they were given an option of what nationality vagina they wanted to be pushed out of,they would have all said 'merica.


RE: Seize your car?
By MrBlastman on 4/7/2014 2:54:57 PM , Rating: 4
Don't you DARE try to screw in a lightbulb, Jason! Didn't you know you NEED to be certified to do that? They are hooked up to electricity for heaven's sake! You might get electrocuted or worse, slip on your footstool and injure yourself!

Call your electrician immediately! He needs to be licensed, bonded charge a minimum fee of 350.00 for the service call. But no worries. Your lightbulb will be replaced perfectly with no risk to yourself and you can go about your day focusing on more productive things...

... Like figuring out how you're going to pay a damn electrician 350.00 to screw in a ten dollar bulb.

;)

Nanny-State mentalities are scary.


RE: Seize your car?
By Just Tom on 4/6/2014 12:14:31 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
But it never is. For any large city the transit authority gets thousands -- if not tens or hundreds of thousands (or in NYC's case millions) of dollars per taxicab per year.


You'd make a more convincing argument if you actually understand how taxi medallions worked in NYC. A medallion is a one time price, the T&L does not get 'millions' of dollars per taxicab per year. That would be economically impossible, since an average cab grosses maybe 100K/year.

When a medallion is sold NYC only releases whatever taxes are due it as if it was any other sale. The only time it receives money directly is when it actually auctions off new medallions. I believe NYC has not had a medallion auction since 2011.



RE: Seize your car?
By MightyAA on 4/7/2014 8:06:48 PM , Rating: 4
Exactly...
And it's also the difference between a company with a ton of employee's (taxi drivers) versus Joe Blow heading that direction anyway and wants some gas/parking money where both the driver and the passenger win. About the only thing to regulate is those that are trying to earn a undocumented living just doing this stuff. At that point, it looks like a duck and an IRS audit or your tax forms would clear it up whether or not this is your 'job'.

Just because I make a pot of coffee in the morning in which my co-workers pitch in so we can get some decent brew doesn't mean I need corporate license and a Starbucks franchise license. Yet if I construct a kiosk in the lobby... it's a different beast.


RE: Seize your car?
By drycrust3 on 4/6/2014 1:29:58 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Licensing is a protectionist racket.

At one time there was no regulation of taxi drivers, and then along came some extra horrific crime or other, and everyone went "Eeeek ... that driver has a criminal file as long as your arm, how did he get to be a taxi driver for 10 years" or such like, and so the US lawmakers would have followed other countries and introduced laws that said taxi drivers have to be regulated.
The problem with this type of internet car pooling is it enables people who are providing a taxi service to do so without abiding by the statutory obligations that a taxi has to.
For example, in New Zealand, where I live, a taxi driver has to have police approval before they are allowed to carry passengers "for hire or reward". They have to display a photo ID with a unique moniker (I think that is the word) on it in a prominent place in the cab, they have to have video surveillance cameras operating inside the cab, they have to display their fares outside the cab, they have to have an area knowledge certificate to operate in that area, their taxi company has to be registered with the police, etc.
Now the important part in all this is the "for hire and reward", which means that even a convicted criminal can carry friends in his car without fear, but if he wants to carry "for hire or reward", e.g. charge "petrol money", he can get charged by the police if he doesn't have their approval.
So, here we have companies organising a taxi service without meeting the statutory obligations a taxi company does. For example, do these companies that organise these rides do a proper background check on the drivers they use? I'm guessing "no".


RE: Seize your car?
By Schrag4 on 4/7/2014 1:39:08 PM , Rating: 3
So is it your position that craigslist should be shut down, since sellers and buyers haven't gone through a background check before they posted ads and responded to them? They meet face-to-face, after all, and occasionally one murders the other.

If I'm afraid of being murdered during a craigslist transaction, I won't use craigslist (and I wouldn't be the only one). Similarly, if I'm scared of random drivers, I can take a cab. Otherwise, why should I pay more for a service (background check for drivers) that I don't necessarily want? You're saying I shouldn't be able to do something, and it's for my own protection. Why can't I decide how much danger I want to put myself in?

I'm with those that believe that this has nothing to do with anything other than protecting the taxi industry as it exists today.


RE: Seize your car?
By cab498 on 4/12/2014 9:50:45 AM , Rating: 3
No "horrific crime" came along to cause regulation of the taxi industry. What came along was a Depression. During the last Depression (as opposed to the one we are living through now) in the 1930s, the taxi industry was completely unregulated. Many unemployed people, in order to survive, turned their own personal cars into cabs. The number of taxis on the road in New York city jumped dramatically. The existing major cab companies, fearful of the competition, pressured the city government of New York City to limit the number of taxicabs on the street and protect their business interests. In exchange, the taxi companies agreed to let the taxi and limo commission regulate the industry. It was a deal between two devils with the consumer and the independent drivers as the sacrifices.
Other cities, seeing what New York had done, adopted regulatory regimens themselves.
The worst element of these taxi regulation schemes is the limits on the number of taxis allowed on the road by various city councils.
The solution to the problem is to entirely deregulate the taxi industry and get the government as far away from it as possible.


RE: Seize your car?
By Reflex on 4/5/2014 7:28:47 PM , Rating: 1
No, this was far worse than anything I have seen anywhere in the US ever. It may 'sound' like Vegas to you, but having done both no it was not. It was bad on a level you apparently cannot imagine.

I also think that your stereotypes of China and what they are 'used to' are pretty ignorant. China has a middle and upper class as well, and when leaving an international airport a significant number of the travelers are either foreign or middle to upper class, yet there was no real service for them outside of very expensive limousine services, which were likewise risky in different ways due to a lack of regulation (seriously, organized crime there operates limos as well as those are often high value targets).

I do not suggest that Lyft, Uber or others are horrible. I rode in Uber down in San Jose and it was clean, professional and well done. But that is missing the point. Once the standard is set others will enter that market, and a race to the bottom will begin. I have seen the end results of that.

What amazes me most is how foreigners I know who come here are stunned that they do not have to worry about the safety of a transportation option here. That our vehicles are relatively uniform, that drivers know where they are going, and that prices are up front without negotiation. Yes of course there are bad stories, outliers, and areas with poor cab services(usually the less regulated areas). But in general if you get out of an airport in the USA you can hop in any cab waiting and go where you want to go without any sense of concern. That is NOT the case in most of the world, and it is something others envy us over. Why you want to see that go away I do not understand, I can only guess that you haven't travelled much.

As for your last point, citation needed. No one has blocked Uber, Lyft or others. If they are already exceeding all of the standards of taxi services, they should have no problem simply registering as a taxi service. Based on other aspects they offer, they would likely clean up in my opinion. Why they are avoiding that I can only assume has to do with maximizing profit rather than competing on a level playing field. I have never seen any real world evidence that markets self-regulate, and in my state we have had several recent examples of deregulation at the behest of industry that have gone horribly awry.


RE: Seize your car?
By Mint on 4/6/2014 6:30:40 AM , Rating: 2
You make some good points, Reflex, particularly regarding safety, but your concern about the "race to the bottom" isn't warranted, IMO. Official taxis have distinguishing markers, so there's no need to worry about ridesharing tainting their industry.

Still, there needs to be a different registration system for ridesharing. Taxi licences are very expensive, and are only worth it for full time taxi drivers.


RE: Seize your car?
By Reflex on 4/6/2014 12:45:01 PM , Rating: 2
The 'official markers' you mention are widely copied in Asia and India. There is no way to distinguish official from unofficial assuming that you as a traveler even know what the official marker is. The standard recommendation is to only get in a taxi called from your hotel or by airport staff. The problem with that advice is that you have no way of knowing if the staff member themselves is on the take from someone.


RE: Seize your car?
By JasonMick (blog) on 4/6/2014 11:06:23 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
As for your last point, citation needed. No one has blocked Uber, Lyft or others. If they are already exceeding all of the standards of taxi services, they should have no problem simply registering as a taxi service.
Wrong.

You can't just "register as a taxi service".

It's really nothing to do with safety, cleanliness, or standards.

For example in NYC you pay anywhere from $100K to $1M USD to operate a cab, depending on city district.
quote:
I do not suggest that Lyft, Uber or others are horrible. I rode in Uber down in San Jose and it was clean, professional and well done. But that is missing the point. Once the standard is set others will enter that market, and a race to the bottom will begin. I have seen the end results of that.

So all this regulation (aka, "payola") must be leading to some great accountability right?

Wrong.

http://nypost.com/2014/02/09/cabbies-who-kill-or-m...

quote:
Of 16 fatal or serious crashes since 2009 examined by The Post, only two of the drivers had their licenses revoked, according to a review based on a Freedom of Information Act request.
The industry regularly hires shady consulting groups to manipulate the data to try to make it look as if taxi drivers are safer that normal drivers. But they actively resist the actual accident numbers being made public, as do the traffic authorities.

Taxicab drivers that killed people are still allowed to continue operating on the streets in New York City.

Pay-to-play protection regulations rackets have very little to do with public safety and everything to do with both local officials and the businesses in on the racket maximizing profits.

You seem to be unaware of how much dirty dollars are involved, how little the regulators care about actual public good, and how services can't just "register" as "freedom to drive" isn't free.

"Freedom to drive" is fee.... sometimes a million dollar one.


RE: Seize your car?
By Reflex on 4/6/14, Rating: 0
RE: Seize your car?
By RedemptionAD on 4/7/2014 10:42:09 AM , Rating: 2
To be fair about all this, a permit of $50 a year per driver for up to 150 passengers a year would be a fair way to take care of this issue. It really isn't only about the money in this case although it does play a role as it does in everything, it is a case of accountability in case bad stuff happens, like getting car insurance.
The article you quoted is simple incompetence at work in the system which is definitely an issue that the government needs to fix, however that is an internal issue and therefore not relevant to this issue at hand.


RE: Seize your car?
By RedemptionAD on 4/7/2014 10:45:10 AM , Rating: 2
Edit: I should have wrote 700 passengers a year for the permit.


RE: Seize your car?
By msheredy on 4/7/2014 11:48:58 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
don't know how much travel outside of the country you have done, Jason, but having just returned from China I can tell you that the regulated system we have now is far preferable to what I found there, or in India or other nations with unregulated systems.


And in other news, water is wet.


RE: Seize your car?
By grant3 on 4/13/2014 7:13:22 PM , Rating: 2
You suffer some crappy cabs in a foreign country and you think it's relevant to USA *how* exactly??

Clearly you've never actually used the ride sharing services *here* .

1- Every driver has to submit pictures of their newer-model car before getting approved.
2- The cars are nicer, cleaner, and usually newer than any taxi
3- The drivers are MUCH friendlier than most taxi drivers.

How you may ask? Because every driver on every ride gets a rating, and any driver who doesn't keep a high average rating is kicked off the system.

When was the last time you ever heard of a taxi driver being forced to sell his medallion for being surly and driving a beater?

All you people with apocalyptic whining about safety/cleanliness/whatever are either idiots or shills for taxi companies. Every single Uber ride i've taken has been better than every single taxi ride, and that's even before we account for the $ that's added on to every taxi ride by fatcats who milk the artificial-scarcity by renting out their licenses and doing no work.


RE: Seize your car?
By EricMartello on 4/7/2014 10:40:38 AM , Rating: 2
This is "protectionism" plain and simple. An industry with little or no bar to entry lobbies state and local govts to require bogus licensing or certification under the notion that the service can only be provided by "professionals".

In addition to taxi companies, there are other low-bar industries that continue to lumber along under a shroud of protectionism, like hair styling, moving companies and no one's favorite - lawyers.

Although the proponents of these industries will argue otherwise, there is no warrant for any type of licensing to perform the respective services of these "protected" industries. In a free market, the government will not interfere with commerce by requiring certification and/or licensing where there is ZERO evidence that doing so improves public safety.


RE: Seize your car?
By Reclaimer77 on 4/7/2014 12:19:57 PM , Rating: 2
Add real estate agents to that list too. Seriously how goddamn hard can it be? But they have licences and tests and certifications galore, it's absurd.


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