What Should Dallas Do About Uber? DOUBLE Ctd.

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.”

Comments

  • BGBG

    No. A silly way to run a city is to provide inadequate public transportation, have a government-sponsored monopoly providing for pay alternative means of transportation and laying out your city to be utterly unwalkable.

    • Eric Celeste

      Ok.

  • Charles

    Go the New York City route. Allow Uber Yellow cabs too. If the cab service wants to avoid the startup cost of providing an app, they can use Uber themselves. Uber is a tech company connecting a service provider with a customer. If you talk to the Uber drivers, they all pride themselves on being independent businessmen that can set their own hours and (therefore) compensation. Quite frankly, its capitalism at its best. The Uber app feedback system self-regulates. If a driver consistently gets bad ratings, they are thrown off the Uber system.

    • Eric Celeste

      Agree with this, too. Also, Lyst will be here soon, as will other Uber-like providers. If they incorporate cabs, then the comparisons the company likes to make (likening itself, for example, to Expedia or Orbitz) makes more sense.

  • D. Shapiro

    I’m not running a city. So, leave Uber alone. Leave me alone, too.

    • Eric Celeste

      You can’t make me.

  • Piper

    You should be the one to pipe it down. You really should.

  • Piper

    Pipe it down eric

  • Richard

    Eric – the limos are already regulated and licensed. Can you tell us which regulations should be rewritten?

    This post feels like soft redirect. Please tell me you are not attending Carol Reed’s Christmas parties, too.

    • Eric Celeste

      Damnit! You’ve ferreted out my soft redirect plan.

  • Piper

    Personally, we shouldn’t listen to you

    • heels

      Less Piper

  • Greg Brown

    Just about every city has a city-sanctioned monopoly on Taxi services, especially the large ones where Uber’s model could be financially successful. I agree it is disingenuous to call themselves a technology company, but somehow they had to get their foot in the door, provide good service, and then let the public go to bat for them.

    Has anything in Taxi operations fundamentally changed in the 100 years that we have had taxis in Dallas? No. And with enough political contributions it does not have to. Taxi services can continue to provide lousy service in smelly cars by employees that one can barely communicate with.

    I agree that a re-write of the regulations that embraces new technology rather than shunning it would be ideal.

    • Eric Celeste

      Agree with everything here.

    • Peter Kurilecz

      and don’t forget that in most cities there is a cap on the number of cabs allowed. but that is about to come to a screeching halt after a recent case in Milwaukee
      Court Breaks Open Milwaukee’s Taxi Cartel
      Engaged Judge Rules That City Cannot Pass Laws Simply to Protect Industry Insiders
      http://ij.org/milwaukee-taxis-release-4-16-2013
      the ILJ has filed similar cases in Denver and New Orleans

  • Bill

    Eric “It’s cool to be contrarian” Celeste yet again underperforms and comes out looking like a douche.

  • Chris

    I would like to know more about the regulations über is not following. One side says all uber cars are registered/licensed the other says they are not and were given citations. Specifically what were the cars cited for and what regulations does dallas feel über needs to follow.

  • Wes Mantooth

    I like the way that Mike Snyder hacks the account of “Eric Celeste,” then self-deprecates his way out of detection. Very sneaky, sis.

  • David Burrows

    Dallas needs to keep up – technologically speaking. We’ve had to endure crappy transportation options (IE: 76.7% chance of taxi actually arriving to pick you up) in a city that force feeds you valet at every venue, so, of course Uber is like a godsend. I just hope the compromises won’t make it equally as expensive and a poor experience as cab service. Oh, Excuse me as someone from the city council is sending me a telegraph.

  • Eric Celeste

    There was money to be made on this? Is there a sock-puppet jobs board you could direct me to, WesMan?

  • Everlasting Phelps

    I’ll take B, please.

  • Wes Mantooth

    I can’t interfere with your job status, Celeste-if-that’s-who-you-really-are. The one making book can’t interfere with the event itself. That’s like the Prime Directive for sockpuppet-bookmakers, except we don’t only honor it in the void like those paltry starcaptains of the future.

  • Avid Reader

    What taxi service regulations are they currently not having to follow?

  • JtB

    I say option b. Unless, of course, Food trucks start providing car service. ‘Cause I do want clean food on the ride.

    • TheSlowPath

      I think the future will feature all-electric, autonomous food truck limos you can beckon and pay for with your phone. Truly, the world will be grand when all I have to do is sit back, gorge, and Twitter away my retirement in the back of a Uber-Google-Tesla-Naami truck.

  • Richard

    Piper = Eric’s sweety?

  • lakewoodhobo

    Successful businesses skirt regulations on technicalities all the time. Why single out Uber? Because the president of Yellow Cab has made the following political contributions and wants some favors called in.

    Dwaine Caraway – $2,000, 2/2/2013
    Dwaine Caraway – $1,000, 12/9/2010
    Dwaine Caraway – $1,000, 4/10/2009
    Jerry Allen – $1,000, 2/21/2011
    Jerry Allen – $1,000, 5/9/2009
    Jerry Allen – $1,000, 4/13/2009
    Mike Rawlings – $1,000, 5/8/2012
    Mike Rawlings – $3,000, 5/25/2011
    Monica Alonzo – $1,000, 2/10/2012
    Monica Alonzo – $1,000, 2/15/2013
    Monica Alonzo – $1,000, 2/10/2011
    Lee Kleinman – $1,000, 6/4/2013
    Tennell Atkins – $500, 8/28/2008
    Tennell Atkins – $1,000, 7/2/2008
    Tennell Atkins – $1,000, 7/1/2010
    Tennell Atkins – $1,000, 1/27/2011
    Tennell Atkins – $1,000, 7/1/2009
    Tennell Atkins – $1,000, 4/14/2009
    Vonciel Hill – $1,000, 4/18/2013
    Vonciel Hill – $1,000, 5/17/2009
    Carolyn Davis – $1,000, 6/23/2013
    Carolyn Davis – $1,000, 4/29/2013
    Carolyn Davis – $1,000, 6/13/2009
    Carolyn Davis – $1,000, 4/23/2009
    Carolyn Davis – $1,000, 4/14/2011
    Sheffie Kadane – $1,000, 11/19/2010
    Sheffie Kadane – $1,000, 5/9/2009
    Sheffie Kadane – $1,000, 5/13/2009

    • Richard

      Just to be clear, these are the above-board-contributions.

    • Eric Celeste

      UBER SOCK PUPPET!

    • Eric Celeste

      Also, what is your point? I said I supported quashing the rule that was clearly aimed at making it harder on Uber to operate than the cabbies.

  • Wylie H Dallas

    It’s a bit more nuanced than that. I don’t believe the issue relates to drivers being licensed and registered, they are. Rather, the City has a bunch of regs on the books relating to limousines that make them harder to operate than taxis.

    Here are some:
    – Any change in fare must be approved by “The Director” (a city official)
    – Vehicle purchase price of vehicle exceeds $35,000 (City proposes increase to $45,000)
    – Driver can not arrive more than 10 minutes ahead of schedule
    – Trip must be “prearranged”
    – No change in rates without written approval of “The Director.”
    – Having a “trip manifest” with names, addresses, etc. of all passengers
    – Prohibiting the use of meters or other measuring devices to determine fares

    (I suspect Lipscomb’s handiwork in some of this).

  • Richard

    Eric – this says nothing about the cars lacking permits. So I have to ask, have you talked anyone at The Reeds about this issue?

  • Wylie H Dallas

    I don’t think the issue is the limos having permits, rather, it’s the stuff I just listed in the post above. The primary issues appear to be:

    -Who is the “operator” of the service? (one could argue who cares, as long as they are insured, etc.)
    -Prohibition against limos picking up passengers unless the trip has been prearranged. (what constitutes pre-arranged?)
    -Prohibition against the use of meters or other measuring devices to determine fares.

  • Richard

    Hell, yes I am, you consultant sock puppet.

  • VFL

    Spot on. Let’s stop trying to figure out why it was on a consent agenda or why we don’t like cab companies and determine sensible public policy that embraces 21st century technology and then get on with getting it passed at the City Council.

  • Commoner

    Eric, just as a matter of interest:

    Is Expedia an airline? Should it be FAA regulated?

    The Uber DRIVERS are all regulated and licensed. That’s the thing. We need to “regulate” the app?

  • Neal K

    You never answered the question about Carol Reed’s parties. Do you socialize with Yellow Cab’s lobbyist and bag carrier? Tim has already admitted it, but only reluctantly.

  • Peter Kurilecz

    Drive On: Cambridge loses lawsuit to keep Uber off the roads
    http://www.boston.com/business/innovation/blogs/inside-the-hive/2013/06/25/drive-cambridge-loses-lawsuit-keep-uber-off-the-roads/k4wRr243CwSoRG1kAjDKSI/blog.html

    A Judge Rejected Cambridge’s Lawsuit Against Uber
    http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2013/06/25/a-judge-rejected-cambridges-lawsuit-against-uber/
    also two tech companies are offering similar services in nyc. the beauty of services like uber is that the provide for more transportation opps in underserved areas. Sure you can get a cab from a hotel to the airport or vice versa, but try hailing one on a Dallas street? Even in NYC you have problems in areas like Long Island City, or Queens.

    • steve h

      Peter, you look like an attorney but your post look more like pr. You cannot find an uber car in any underserved area in the United States . This is the most discriminatory transportation company you can imagine. Poor, African Americans , Hispanics are under represented in credit card ownership.

      The Cambridge case just said the governor had power to allow gps meters until weights and measures figure out if the meter is accurate. Minor thing of making sure the public is not ripped off.

      If an uber customer wants to spend 25 bucks they get to be a baller. Does not seem unreasonable to me ?

  • Alexander Muse

    I wish Dallas would regulate Travelocity… Please save me from that terrible service. Seriously. Why the fuck is the city involving itself in this issue? The limos that use Uber as a dispatch service are ALL taxed and regulated by the city. Do we need a another level of regulation? The proposed regulations would make the service worse, not better. #dallasneedsuber

  • Alexander Muse

    Um… Seriously? Why isn’t Dallas regulating Travelocity? The limos who use Uber as a dispatch service are taxed and regulated by the city. Why do we need a second layer of taxation and regulation? Truth? The city shouldn’t be picking winners and losers – let the customer decide. Uber is great, but it isn’t a taxi. Get over it…

    • steve h

      Read your uber contract. Headquartered in the Netherlands . Take zero responsibility for your car or driver. All is cool until something bad happens in transportation.

      Yellow cab should incorporate off shore and not be responsible for who they dispatch too ?

      Slippery slop of lawyers and legal ease.

  • Alexander Muse

    They do want cabs in their service. But the Dallas taxis arent interested, yet.

  • Richard

    And Eric is usually so responsive. The media’s relationship with consultants is an important topic to dissect because two or three firms are a critical part of driving public opinion and public policy in the City of Dallas. When are you going to write about that Eric?

    Speaking of consultants and the media, I’m still scratching my head about Eric’s reporting here on Irving’s entertainment center. It had a strong whiff of consultant-driven “reporting.” Anything Irving strangely out-of-place on this blog.

    Eric, since you are not a full-time employee of D Publishing, would it be a good idea to disclose your list of your past and present clients, including any consulting firms?

  • Neal K

    Hey, look at this fawning profile Eric wrote about Carol Reed in 2007.

    http://www.dmagazine.com/Home/2007/12/13/Dallas_Top_Political_Consultant_Carol_Reed.aspx

    • Eric Celeste

      Ya got me! Stop with your investigatory brilliance! Your powers are too great!

  • Richard

    So, Eric, are you a journalist, or a consultant, or an “advocacy journalist”?

    Let’s do this. On Saturday morning, why don’t you and Jim plan on talking about consultants and their impact on local journalism. And after you explain your own relationships, why don’t you ask Jim to explain why he never took Carol Reed to the woodshed like other consulting companies as the John Wylie/FBI story broke. There’s a rumor out there that Carol is a Jim’s big source of info for this case. And I wonder why her firm was never raided. Hmmmm.

  • Eric Celeste

    Oh you got me!

  • Eric Celeste

    I do not. I had a beer with Carol and Laura Reed 6 years ago. My turn: Do you always ask dumb questions?

  • Eric Celeste

    Does Expedia hire pilots?

  • Eric Celeste

    I do not. I had a beer with Carol and Laura Reed 6 years ago.

  • Eric Celeste

    I have not.

  • Eric Celeste

    Although what if I had?

  • Eric Celeste

    Argumentum ad hominem.

  • Commoner

    Such a bunch of crap, “steve.” “Read your uber contract.” Should Travelocity or Expedia take responsibility for what happens to me on an American Airlines flight? Your problem with Uber is that it works too well and is going to force whatever crappy cab company you’re shilling for to get better at what it does. So un-American, this competition and innovation …

  • Commoner

    No. Does Uber hire drivers?

  • Fowler Nordheim

    Maybe Dallas noticed this ? From a couple sources, Uber plans to become more directly involved in transportation via investment from google and potentially using self-driving cars:

    http://techcrunch.com/2013/08/22/google-ventures-puts-258m-into-uber-its-largest-deal-ever/

  • Tim Rogers

    Well, this escalated quickly.

    • Wes Mantooth

      I think that Eric killed a guy with a trident or something.

  • Jefferson

    This counterpoint is a leap Bob Beamon would be proud of.

  • Commoner

    It is indeed, and very exciting.

  • Lee

    At the end of the day (I like to add this when I am commenting on a day-old post), if Uber needs additional regulation then so does Yellow Cab. Because if I can’t get a cab driver to either pick me up at my house in Kessler Park or drop me off there at the end of the night, then I am in trouble. Uber has never once not showed up quickly when I requested a pick-up or made a single complaint when I have asked them to drop me off at the end of the night.

  • Wes Mantooth

    You rang?

    Sorry, I didn’t see the spotlight in the sky. Gotta work on that.

  • Eric Celeste

    Sigh. Sure thing, Rich. List of past clients: Craig Watkins, Angela Hunt, Dallas Housing Authority, Jim Ammerman, Express Working Capital, Wolford Weibring, Haynes & Boone, Oliver Wyman, American Airlines, Academic Partnerships, SwiftAir, Oncor. My girlfriend also works for Oncor so I’m incredibly conflicted there, which I’ve noted on this blog. I have friends in high places at Luminant and TXU and Stream Energy, so actually I’m conflicted about the energies in general. Who else? I know most of the PR people in town, most of the consultants in town, some of the politicians in town, many of the journalists in town over 30. I’m friends with a few sports writers and talk show hosts, I count several of the area’s top bartenders as mates, and I know a restaurateur or three. I have several friends who are lawyers, a couple in commercial real estate, and one who has been banned from The Lodge. I also know the owner of The Lodge. I’m friends with Jeff Duffey of Jeff Duffey Realty — he used to be my neighbor and we’d get sh***y on wine together. Who else? I know many folks at the DMN and at the businesses the DMN owns. (Hi Mike! Hi Alison!) I dunno. Is that good, or do you want a list of people with whom I’ve spoken, too?

  • Eric Celeste

    Yes. You pay Uber. Uber pays the driver. That’s hiring, no matter what loophole the company jumps through. Also: Expedia doesn’t dispatch the planes. Uber’s app does.

  • Eric Celeste

    Yes, yes. You’re correct. All stuff worth figuring out and moving ahead so Uber can kick the hell out of cab companies that don’t adapt and innovate.

  • Commoner

    What does dispatch have to do with regulation? There is nothing regulated about dispatch. The reason cab companies are regulated, in part, is because dispatch is not required–they can be hailed, and the consumer knows nothing about pricing or quality of service when the cab is hailed.

    Uber doesn’t HIRE the drivers. The drivers are licensed operators hired by limo companies, who are also licensed themselves. Uber contracts with the drivers to use their technology to connect with passengers and collect the fee. Uber keeps a 15% commission and remits the remainder to the driver or limo company.

    You can call it “hiring” if you want to, but it is brokering through the use of technology.

    Why you would have to regulate a dispatch company is beyond me.

  • Eric Celeste

    I have no idea, but if your guesswork as to my sources on stories is any indication, you’re SPECTACULARLY wrong. As to an earlier question: I am D’s columnist. I am and have always been, except in news stories where it’s made clear, an advocacy journalist. I write about my passions, and I try to do so in an informed way — but sometimes, as in this case, it’s just me telling you what I think.

  • Eric Celeste

    “City” columnist. Sorry.

  • RAB

    Eric:

    Please also list the people you currently owe money to.

  • Eric Celeste

    Commoner, I don’t know why I can’t reply to your post, so I’ll reply here. From your post: “Uber remits the remainder to the driver or limo company.” In English: They are your car pimp. They take 15 percent off the top, but they still pay the driver or company. Paying them means they HIRED them. According to a lawsuit filed today in Boston, some Uber drivers agree: http://www.xconomy.com/boston/2013/08/28/uber-sued-again-over-tip-skimming-claims-case-could-go-national/

  • Eric Celeste

    Oh, it did reply in the right spot. Ignore that point.

  • Eric Celeste

    MUCH longer list, RAB. Wait, we’re square, right?

  • Commoner

    Eric, I’m sorry, but I can’t agree with your premise that “paying them means they HIRED them.” The customer pays, which means the customer hired the driver. The fact that Uber charges a percentage of the fee collected for the dispatch service does not mean that Uber hires drivers.

    More to the point of my original post, though, why would that activity–connecting licensed limo drivers from licensed limo companies to customers via GPS technology–be something that has to be REGULATED? What is it about the dispatching technology that would require regulatory oversight from our paternalistic City officials?

    The answer is: nothing. No more need for regulation and additional laws on the books than a need for the City to begin regulating what reporters can say in a magazine or what magazines can be offered for sale. The only reason this is coming to a head, at all, is because the Uber service is so good that it is a threat to the monopoly that the cab companies–particularly Yellow Cab–have ascended to through years of “regulation,” lobbying, and cronyism.