I got back to my house in Philadelphia a few minutes ago after spending the last few days at the Reason offices in Washington, D.C. I knew I was going to get home late, my train wasn't scheduled to arrive until after midnight, but not quite this late. What happened? My cab driver missed our exit on the highway. I figured this out after he asked if he missed the exit and I looked up at the road and realized yes he had. Then he pulled over and asked me to enter the address onto his phone GPS. When he got off at the right exit he didn't know which direction to go, and he made a wrong turn a little later when I wasn't paying attention again. All in all the ride took twice as long as it should have. Why did I take a cab? Philadelphia doesn't allow Uber X. Since I was at a train station, where cabs are plentiful, I didn't see the need to order a black car via Uber, which would cost maybe twice as much.
If the argument by taxi commissions the country over is that cities should ban Uber because it's not as safe and reliable as licensed cabs, this kind of experience—which is hardly unique—is a powerful counterexample. I had a licensed cabbie but I might as well have been hitchhiking. Neither the city of Phildelphia nor any other city government ought to be limiting my choices based on what they (lubricated by taxi industry lobby money) believe is best. As an adult I can make my own decision. It's time to stop pretending taxi licensing regimes do anything other than raise revenue for municipal governments and protect established monopolies.
Check out Reason TV on the battle over Uber in Washington, D.C., the city where I first decided I would use Uber after getting a cab ride to the train station last time I was there and ending up missing the last train headed north. The cab driver's card machine broke and he accused me of breaking it. Watch Reason TV on Uber in D.C. below: