If we could all just unwrap our mouths from Uber’s tailpipe for a moment, I’d like to offer a slight counterpoint to the “leave Uber the hell alone” sentiment out there.
First, I understand why people hate cab companies. (Although most of my experiences with cab rides in Dallas — probably one a month, on average — are just fine.) I know why people love Uber — I do, too. I am all for innovation. I’m all for letting the market get rid of inefficiency and pre-Internet monopolies. I understand the consent-agenda stuff was sneaky and the law was targeted at Uber and I’m glad Wilonsky wrote about it and alerted everyone to what was going on and people made up cool hashtags and got all Twitterpated and on and on and on. I really am.
That said, the argument that Uber makes — that it’s a tech company, not a car-service company — is patently absurd. It is, to quote its chief data guru, an “app-based on-demand private driver service.” As such, we should either a) ask it to come into regulatory compliance with the services with which it competes, meaning cabs; b) do away with those regulations for everyone, cabs included; or c) rewrite the regulations to cover both entities in a way that better understands the new market landscape, offering appropriate oversight yet with enough freedom to allow true competition. Personally, I like option “c.” But chanting “leave Uber alone” is basically saying you’re swallowing Uber’s PR points just because you like their service, which is a silly way to run a city.
Update: A lawyering Frontburnervian passes along this post from D.C., where they are grappling with the same issues. Said FBvian says that “Uber is great” but “that doesn’t mean that Uber shouldn’t be regulated. It just means we should carefully craft the regulations to ensure the public health and safety, and forget about protecting the bottom line of cab companies.”