Don’t Shackle Uber, Roll Back Taxi Regulations

Have you ever wondered why taxi service hasn’t improved much in thirty years?

Well, Uber and Lyft might be the greatest thing to happen to the dinosaur-like industry. They’re dragging it into the twenty-first century by introducing mobile apps that allow users to select individual drivers based on online reviews and proximity, track a driver’s location in real time, and pay without using cash or plastic. These companies have been slashing fares, offering additional transportation options during peak hours, and introducing new pricing models like
discounted fares during off-peak hours. The result is better quality service.

And yet, many local regulators have been trying to stop these companies from operating as is, instead trying to subject them to the same avalanche of regulations that explains why the taxi industry is so stagnant — price controls, astronomical fees for taxi licenses, restrictions on where passengers can and cannot be picked up, and on and on.

For instance, the Seattle City Council recently clamped a 150-vehicle limit on Uber, Lyft, and similar companies, forcing them to discontinue thousands of vehicles that they already have servicing the Seattle area. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission has threatened to impose rules that would prohibit Uber from charging by distance and prohibit its vehicles from coming within 100 feet of a restaurant, hotel, or bar.

The fact that large numbers of people have been safely and happily using Uber and Lyft reveals how suffocating these controls are. Rather than shackle innovators like Lyft and Uber, our local and state representatives should be removing the controls from the taxi industry altogether.