Uber Car Service Under Attack—Denver Edition

Uber, the innovative private car service, is under attack again—this time in Denver. Transportation planners at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) are proposing rule changes that would cripple Uber's business model.

Sedans would no longer be able to charge by distance, which is “akin to telling a hotel it is illegal to charge by the night," says UberDenver's Will McCollum.

Moreover, Uber drivers would be prohibited from parking within 200 feet of a hotel, restaurant, or bar—essentially barring the service from downtown. Uber customers use a smartphone app to view a real-time map of drivers parked nearby, so the change would mean drivers have to leave downtown and other high-density areas, turn on the app, and then drive back into the city to pick up fares.

According to a PUC spokesman, the intent is "to keep luxury limousine companies from operating like taxi companies, which means sitting out in front of hotels and bars and restaurants and soliciting business. They need to have the prearranged ride."

From Westword:

"Uber saved my business," says Randy Eddy, owner of a car service called A Dandy One Limousine.

Since teaming up with Uber, Eddy has gone from three to eight full-time drivers and added another vehicle. Last week alone, 59 percent of his customers were Uber clients.

Throttling competition is something of a mania with the PUC. Two cab companies controlled Denver’s market for 50 years until litigation in the 90s paved the way for a third service. In 2008, Colorado legislators ordered the PUC to make it easier for new taxis services to enter the market. The PUC ignored that and is waiting for a decision from the Colorado Supreme Court to see if they can get away with it.

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  • AlmightyJB||

    Yep, we can't find one dollar to cut from our government budgets. Everything our governments do are vital and necessary. We're one employee away from total anarchy.

  • CE||

    When can you fire him?

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Transportation planners created all of the problems that transportation planners think they need to solve.

  • ||

    That's sort of the objective. Sort of? No, completely the objective.

  • TheZeitgeist||

    ...the intent is "to keep luxury limousine companies from operating like taxi companies, which means sitting out in front of hotels and bars and restaurants and soliciting business. They need to have the prearranged ride."

    Riddle me this Confucius: If I have 'taxi' service, but with limos, will this guy's brain explode?

  • Guy Laguy||

    as if the taxi board would let you even set up. there's a limit to how many taxis they will let operate.

  • NoVAHockey||

    apparently that's uber's next step. got an email from them a week or so ago. they can to get regular taxis in the system and offer them for a lower price and the sedans. but first they need enough taxis that meet their standards.

  • Scarcity||

    It's already game on for Uber taxi service in Chicago, and it is heaven. I got the app a month or two ago, have used it at least 2-3 times/week, and have yet to wait longer than 4 minutes for a taxi. It's regular Chicago taxi meter rates + 20% "tip" (which is actually split 50/50 between Uber and the driver).

    Every driver we've had has said he loves it too.

    So far I've heard the city pressuring them on limos/sedans, but not on metered taxis. Both are ridiculous of course, but the taxi portion would impact my new habit much more directly.

  • ||

    Innovation and competition WILL NOT be tolerated.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    This is what we get with a nanny state. The peons are obviously inferior to those in power, and thusly, all decisions must be made for them. Now move along, citizen. There's nothing to see here.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    "akin to telling a hotel it is illegal to charge by the night"

    Some hotels charge by the hour.

  • Guy Laguy||

    only the quality ones

  • TakinThyBacon||

    I'm yet to find one that charges by 2 minute increments, that is really all I require.

  • sarcasmic||

    Preventing economic activity is the surest way to grow the economy.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    So, on one hand the gov't wants to stamp out drunk driving. And on the other, the gov't wants to restrict cabs from picking up drunks at bars. I feel like I'm living in Cuckooland!

  • crazyfingers||

    The government doesn't want to stamp out drunk driving. It's one of their biggest cash cows.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    These fucking anarchist internet whiz kids just don't understand. There are rules which must be obeyed, and if they won't, they must be punished.

  • Zeb||

    What I want to know is how these laws get passed in the first place. I understand that taxi companies and some taxi drivers would want these rules. But there aren't that many of them. How is it not completely obvious to consumers that restricting taxi service is a bad deal for them?

  • Raston Bot||

    The argument goes something like this...

    1. free market
    2. too many taxis
    3. taxi driver wages suppressed
    4. race to the bottom
    5. taxi companies go out of business
    6. no more taxis ever

    Yes, it is shite.

  • Raston Bot||

    and to answer your question, dumbasses buy the above argument because it is made by a Public Utilities Commission which consists of infallible, benevolent bureaucrats.

  • Sevo||

    "2. too many taxis
    3. taxi driver wages suppressed"

    Which means the taxi medallions ought to be priced like chicken-feed, right?

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    What I want to know is how these laws get passed in the first place.

    I don't know. Why can't I buy foie gras in California?

  • PapayaSF||

    Probably just regulatory capture on a local scale.

    San Francisco taxi service is notoriously bad. You can call but they may not bother to show up, unless you need a ride to the airport.

  • Sevo||

    Not sure it's directly analogous, but in CA, quite a few pub-sec workers' benes were 'negotiated' during legislative sessions when most all of the public had left, and weren't really discussed at all.
    IOWs, they ended up there under circumstances that would be called fraudulent behavior in the private sector.

  • ||

    Your average person trying to hail a taxi and not being able to find one has absolutely no idea about these laws and what effects they have. None. All they know is they can't find a taxi.

  • NoVAHockey||

    apparently it's all Somalia at DC's union station after 10:00. drivers refusing to go places, no lines, complete chaos, etc. and the answer is always "more regulations." -- there was actually a push to standardize the cars like in London.

  • nicole||

    Plus it's just like with everything else: the costs are widely dispersed and relatively small for any given individual, while the benefits are large and concentrated among a few.

  • ||

    I'm guessing the city made deals to entice cab companies to set up shop in the past and now, have no choice nut to honor their commitments. At the expense of the consumers, of course.

    Interfering in the free market...

    ...what could go wrong?

  • ||

    *nut = but

  • derpules||

    Because the average consumer doesn't care enough about a marginal price increase or relaxation of service to vote for it when there's much more important things to do with their time like watch Honey Boo Boo.

  • Mr Whipple||

    Is it time to start shooting the bastards, yet?

  • Ayn Random Variation||

    If I were Dictator in Chief, I would mandate that basic economics be taught starting in the first grade.

    Then maybe people wouldn't think that without "Transportation Planners", the streets would be filled with millions of empty taxis searching for customers.

  • Paul.||

    Sedans would no longer be able to charge by distance, which is “akin to telling a hotel it is illegal to charge by the night," says UberDenver's Will McCollum.

    Umm, sorry, think of it as Net Neutrality, but for the road. One fee, one rate, all your cars will go the same distance for the same price.

  • Sigivald||

    I sort-of see the point of a PUC for "natural monopolies" or near-monopolies like water and power provision; it's almost impossible to practically compete simply because it's so damned hard to get a second set of pipes or wires, and honestly the costs probably aren't worth the competition.

    Sure, okay.

    But why in God's name is Taxi Service a "public utility" in any way, at all, ever? It's a place where it's trivially easy to compete!

  • Redmanfms||

    It's a place where it's trivially easy to compete!

    No shit.

    1. Buy police auction Crown Vic.
    2. Calculate cost per mile.
    3. Post sign advertising price for ride.
    4. Find customers.

    I know a fellow who built a taxi and short-haul inter-city bus service employing 40+ people from one $3000 Ford and a $15 scientific calculator in less than a decade. Of course, this was in the wastelands of the unregulated South.

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