Washington, D.C.

D.C. City Government Hates Consumers—Bans Cheap UberX Rides



I'm from the goverment, and I'm here to hinder!

That is the evident motto of the city government of Washington, D.C. Just last month, the economically ignorant city council voted to double the minimum wages for workers in big box stores. This particular city council stupidity has resulted so far in Walmart cancelling the construction of three stores in economically depressed areas of the city, and the company may nix the remaining three. 

Now comes the D.C. Taxi Commission (DCTC) which has just banned the new UberX service from the fantastic, absurdly easy-to-use cellphone-activated car service Uber. I am an enthusiastic Uber customer (it's my second favorite app) of its taxi and black car services. The taxi drivers I summon via Uber all tell me that they think it's great—among other things, they don't have to do as much aimless driving in search of fares off the streets.

I was looking forward to trying out its new UberX service which offers rides at lower rates than regular taxis. In Washington, DCTC taxis charge $3.00 for the first 1/8th of a mile, and 27 cents per 1/8th thereafter. So a four-mile trip would cost $11.37. The same UberX trip would cost $10.00, and you would have the convenience of summoning the car directly to you, rather than waving your arms at passing cabs.

The good news is that Uber fights back. The company describes what it is facing here:

Unfortunately, Mayor Gray's appointees to the District of Columbia Taxi Commission (DCTC) delivered a huge blow to consumer choice earlier today by passing sedan regulations that grossly restrict competition and affordable consumer transportation options. These regulations outlaw the use of mid-sized, fuel efficient vehicles from uberX. During today's hearing, Commission Chairman Ron Linton argued that allowing consumers to use Uber to arrange transportation using more affordable, more efficient vehicles like a Toyota Camry Hybrid would represent unfair competition to traditional taxi service. He calls it unfair competition; we call it cheaper and better rides for the people who live, work, and play in and around DC.

Regrettably, the DCTC did not listen to the Federal Trade Commission's advice to avoid "restrictions on competition" when drafting the regulations. Instead, DCTC chose to pass rules that, in DC Councilmember Mary M. Cheh's words, "discourage customer choice," create "an anti-competitive atmosphere" and "do not serve the goal of protecting consumers."

Riders rose up when the DCTC tried to stop Uber when it first came to town. Let's hope that another consumer revolt will force the reactionary DCTC to repeal its ridiculous anti-choice regulations this time too.

Just how out-of-control authoritarian and thuggish the D.C. Taxi Commission is was made crystal clear when Reason TV producer Jim Epstein was arrested and put in jail for video recording a public meeting at of the Commission. See video report below:


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  1. This particular city council stupidity has resulted so far in Walmart cancelling the construction of three stores in economically depressed areas of the city, and the company may nix the remaining three.

    I can’t see how it wouldn’t be in Walmart’s interest just to eat the sunk cost of the remaining three possible stores rather than show places all over the country that you can target them and get them to pay higher wages.

    1. Don’t worry, they’ll just make WalMart keep the stores open via regulation.

      1. There’s a federal civil rights violation in there somewhere!


    2. You’d be surprised. With the kind of volume they’re moving, the relatively-short-term costs probably do lead to the logical conclusion to “abandon in place”.

      It’s not like manufacturing (esp. autos) where you have BILLIONS in engineering and equipment for one product…so it’s very hard to abandon.

      A retail/warehouse type facility is pretty cheap in the grand scheme of things, so a couple bucks change in some of the key cost inputs….”fuck it, put police tape around it – we’re outta here” = cost effective.

      1. Definitely. They might be able to sell the property to someone who wouldn’t fall under the stupid regulation either. I think the DC reg only covers large retail stores, so maybe Amazon or New Egg will end up getting a great deal here.

        1. I think these were all long-term lease deals with developers, so selling isn’t likely an option. They’ll probably have to pay some sort of penalty/lost rent if they move out until the developer can find another tenant.

          1. Wal-Mart capitalizes their long-term leases. Essentially, they pay most of the “costs” of leasing in the first few years of operations. The costs are “front loaded” in the duration of the lease. Bottom line: if they have stores that have been open for three or five years, Wal-Mart can walk away from the lease and not suffer any fiscal damage.


            1. I would have figured Walmart would own its real estate, though. I mean, can certainly afford it and they very rarely close down stores. Why do they choose to lease rather than buy?

              1. WE moved to the “lease” model several years ago, mostly to not be tied into real estate in case we needed to move/close/expand down the road.

                I’d surmise WalMart does it for the same reason – one less capital burden.

            2. Well none of these stores have opened at all, so if they are paying most of the costs up front, then the lost rent bill is likely to be high.

              1. I was referring to the three existing stores Wal-Mart was thinking of shuttering, as cited in the article. For the three stores they were developing, and are now cancelling, yeah, it sucks. Hopefully they can get out of it cheap.

                1. There are no existing Walmarts in DC. There were three stores in planning that they canceled. There three other stores in construction, but none has opened yet.

    3. Wal Mart may have a corporate policy, as does Newegg does with patent trolls, that they will never agree to this kind of legislative blackmail and will fight it to the end. They know what’s at stake in the long run and showing that you won’t bluff strengthens their position considerably.

      Of course, the union scum don’t care, heads they win, tails you lose.

    4. 10-289

  2. Let’s hope that another consumer revolt will force the reactionary DCTC to repeal its ridiculous anti-choice regulations this time too.


    Good luck with that.

  3. I just used UberX in DC on Monday. $9. best deal in town. got a ride in a spotless Chrysler 300. bastards.

    1. DC is just such a paradise for anyone that has to travel. Parking rates specifically designed to discourage cars coming into the city, extortionist cab fare, shitty, shitty traffic, unreliable public transport, why wouldn’t anyone want to go there?

      1. When I was at Johns Hopkins, I decided I would take the train to DC and check it out.

        I did that once. Never again. When you’d rather be in Baltimore than somewhere else, that somewhere else must be a real shithole.

        1. it was the smell, wasn’t it? summertime and DC sewer.

          1. It was everything.

        2. I did that once. Never again. When you’d rather be in Baltimore than somewhere else, that somewhere else must be a real shithole.

          You didn’t enjoy staring at the visages of our countries greatest patriots? What about marveling at the monuments to all the young men who died… for some political reason or other?

          1. I liked the museums. Pretty cool seeing the Apollo 11 capsule.

            1. Second the museums.

              Except the National Aquarium. Holy fuck, never go there. Ever.

              1. the good aquarium is in Baltimore. the DC one is in the basement of the Commerce Dept, IIRC.

                1. You are correct. When I worked as an intern(unpaid) in the Commerce Department they had three baby aligators called Getcha, Gitcha and Gotcha.

                  1. That’s a crazy building. Halls a light year long.

                1. It’s something absurd like $15. It’s in the basement of either the commerce building or the one across the street from there; it quite literally has about 15 fish tanks with nothing much bigger than a goldfish.

          2. The oppresive statism of DC and the surrounding region is palpable and repulsive. I went through on a train down to Virginia a number of years ago, and holy fuck does that get creepy. Everything is government. Everything.

            1. It went totally south when they banned all of the kiosks on the Mall and closed off Pennsylvania Ave. Used to be able to throw refuse on the White House lawn before that.

  4. No h/t for Kristen?

    1. TIWTANLW.

  5. I think someone needs to define “competition” for the council.

  6. Nothing stimulates the economy like preventing economic activity!

  7. Consumer choice is a threat to our business! Something *must* be done about it!

  8. Shouldn’t the FTC be investigating the DC city government for supporting a coersive monopoly in taxi service?

    1. Silly, that’s not how it works. Only evil corporations can do evil.

      1. It’s funny how the FTC stopped the AA/UA merger (which is AA’s only feasible means of emerging from bankruptcy) because of the effect it might have on air fares, but they won’t touch local regulations that codify monopolies and cabals. Look in the dictionary, under the phrase “selective enforcement”….

    2. The government doesn’t investigate itself, dude.

      1. But the Censor would!

        Church of England Productions.

      2. The IG would beg to differ. Besides, DC is always trying to gain autonomy from the Federal Gov’t…

        1. I say we grant DC autonomy from Earth. Scoop it up and shoot it into orbit. Of another star.

          1. That the kind of large scale project that only governments can achieve, though.

            1. Oh, I think I could find the private funds for this project.

            2. That the kind of large scale project that only governments can achieve, though.

              Like space travel?

              Oh wait.

              1. Russian government.

        2. Obama has done a nice job of neutering/marginalizing the various IGs.

  9. “Unfair competition”

    Im not sure what that phrase even means.

    1. It means they might have to lower their rates and that would lead to cabbies not paying their union dues.

    2. Those Uber guys didn’t spend $100k on a now-worthless Taxi medallion. They must be punished for their foresight.

      1. DC doesn’t do medallions. They use a straight licensing scheme. Fees run in the hundreds of dollars depending on vehicle. They do limit the number of new licenses they give out, but the licenses are not transferable.

    3. Evul Kochporashuns have unfair advantages over others that we think we like better, so….BAD! Therefore, must protect the Publick!

      That job of City Council – protect Publick from Evul Kochporashun. Which Wal Mart is. Because we say so.

      1. And UberX. Almanian still stuck on fucking WALMART trying to bring slave jobs and slave wages to DC, along with too many suspect Chinese goods, and cheap, delicious food.

        no good for DC! Boo UberX and WalMert!

    4. Food trucks come to mind whenever I hear that since they’re banned in my town.

    5. It’s unfair when you lose. I mean, the only way you can lose is if they cheat, right? So if you stand to lose, then they must be cheating, and to make things fair the government must step in and prevent them from cheating, right?

    6. Unfair competition = getting the government to shut down your competitors.

  10. What makes you think the DC Taxi Commission exists for the benefit of taxi riders and not taxi providers? Name me one regulatory body that doesn’t regulate in the interests of the regulated.

    1. Exactly. Just reading that name filled me with disgust.

  11. This is where the young, tech savvy Obamaphiles run into the wall of local DC cronyism. And it’s awesome.

    Speaking of awesome, Excalibur was on last night. Man that movie is badass.

    1. Sex in a full suit of armor? Unpossible…. but awesome…

      1. The actress playing Ygraine? The director’s daughter, and no, I’m not making that up.

        1. I believe it based on her acting. And it makes perfect sense that the entire movie is a shrine to over-acting. The director was trying to cover his daughter’s atrocious performance at the beginning.

          1. What acting? Like everyone else who saw the movie, all I remember was that business with her and Uther. Kind of weird to shoot that scene with your daughter, huh?

            1. Kinky – me like

            2. Yes, and having Hellen Mirren sponge bathe your son was probably also weird. Strange bird, that Boorman fellow.

              1. That was Boorman’s son? You’ve out-triviaed me, damn you!

  12. Progressives: just looking out for the little guy!

    1. Looking out for him so they can curb stomp him back into line.

    2. Well, if you don’t look out for the little guy, how can you aim accurately to run him down?

  13. Holy fuck!

    It’s the Anti Dog Eat Dog rule.

    Hey dipshits, Rand was making fun of you, not trying to give you ideas.

    1. Rand is looking more and more prescient every day.

      At the same time, reality is making The Onion look more and more like a legitimate news site.

      1. Dear proglodytes:

        If you want to convince us that Atlas Shrugged is wildly unrealistic, stop acting it out.

  14. What’s your first favorite app, Bailey?

  15. OT: 19 year old teen may be headed to jail after sending her underage lover approximately 20000 texts since being ordered to have no contact in February. I mean, 100 a day?

    Court documents have accussed Hunt of ‘covertly contacting her victim thousands of times’ with an iPod she secretly gave to the girl and told her to ‘keep the fuck quiet about it.’ The previous plea deal meant she would have avoided jail time and being branded a sex offender. But, if it is found the couple have in fact been communicating she will face the charges again. Before being expelled from school after the original arrest in February, Hunt was voted to have the ‘most school spirit’ by fellow students.

    Crazy? Yep.

    1. SFd link.

    2. Since when can you receive a text on an ipod?

      1. iPod Touch (an iPhone without the phone), messaging app? The text app on a iPhone will use internet instead of phone network to send it if it’s available.

    3. 20,000 texts back and forth.

      It’s love, you cynical bastards.

  16. All: Seriously, watch the video – it’s a disgusting example of high-handed authoritarianism.

    1. As if we need more examples of such.

    2. My testicles can’t take any more trauma right now.

      This is why I now only visit the site every few days – I space out the nut punches.

    3. High-handed authoritarianism mixed with a big heap of overt cronyism. Being a DC pol means never having to veil anything.

    4. Ron–If the people aren’t regularly reminded who’s really in charge, they might get uppity and start demanding rights and stuff.

    5. What ever came of that incident?

    6. Can’t believe that.

      Is there some kind of rule or ordinance prohibiting recording meetings?

        1. Reason gonna file suit?

          1. I’ll pitch in a couple hundred.

  17. The local cab companies have so far been successful in preventing the Houston City Council from changing the laws to let Uber in. Fuckers.

  18. You know who else was a fan of something named uber?

      1. +1 piggly

    1. Keith Olbermann?

    2. MMORPG players?

    3. Nietzsche?

  19. I dont think Jack Frapp is gonna like that.


    1. Wasn’t he the one whose wife could eat no lean?

  20. What Ron Linton means when he says “unfair competition”, is “those Uber guys aren’t slipping me money under the table like the cab companies do.”


    1. unfair, adj. threatening to my crony-capitalist business model

  21. “discourage customer choice,” create “an anti-competitive atmosphere” and “do not serve the goal of protecting consumers.”
    Actually, it does exactly the opposite of what you just said, you disingenuous stupid bitch.

    1. Up is down, left is right, ignorance is knowledge.

  22. It’s funny that they didn’t arrest the person filming this video

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