A Personal Anecdote About Taking a Cab Ride That Illustrates Why Municipal Hostility Toward Uber is Silly


uh i think i'll uber instead thanks
"Taxi Driver"

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:

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  1. Every time you take Uber or Lyft or some other thing like that you bring the economy closer to collapse.

    Don’t be an economic terrorist.

    1. You’re either an economic patriot, or an economic terrorist. Your choice, bub.

  2. Uber is fucking great. I just got a ride back home that would have cost double in a cab and been a longer wait. Where I live in SF cabs generally get pissed that they have to go out to. I’ve been refused several times by cabs to go home, not because I live in a dangerous area, but that it’s out of the way. Also been kicked out of a cab for suggesting the right way to go. Competition improves things, imagine that?

  3. Was your cab driver driving really slowly and seemingly confused on the Schuylkill? Because if so, I might have been driving behind you for a bit.

    1. Yep. We got off at 337 when my exit was 338

      1. It’s weird that it’s quite possible I was there for that, as I recall the slow as shit cab being right around there!

  4. He got lost once when you weren’t paying attention. I can understand. But you let it happen again?

    1. I entered the address on his GPS. I guess I should’ve just driven the thing for him

  5. The cab driver’s card machine broke and he accused me of breaking it

    I hope you told him to go fuck himself after not giving him a tip.

    1. I called him a psychopath, in more words than that.

    2. Are you sure it was actually broken? Here in Boston, it’s often “broken” and you’ll have to use cash until you point out it’s illegal to drive in the city without a working credit card machine. Then it mysteriously starts working.

  6. “It’s time to stop pretending taxi licensing regimes do anything other than raise revenue for municipal governments and protect established monopolies.”

    Then the reason they oppose Uber is not silly. It is greedy and corrupt but perfectly rational given those motivations. The safety excuse is merely PR for the ignorant masses.

  7. Of course, I’m an excellent driver.

    /Ed’s Cabbie

  8. I think if you live in a city where cabbing from airport or train-station is a regular thing, then you bear some of the responsibility to ensure your cabbie knows where the @*#U@ he’s going.

    I.e. be a good backseat navigator. You sleep, you pay the price.

    Fuck GPS. If a cabdriver in NYC uses those things even in Bklyn I assume they are dangerously incompetent. Either you know where you are or you don’t. I’ve always been impressed with the way people straight from Bangladesh seem to manage to learn every possible route through queens and Bklyn within a year or two. Its uncanny. And they can debate economic policy while slicing through BQE traffic @ 90mph! Just don’t get into the whole indian/pakistani politics thing. Ever.

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