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."
"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.