D.C. Passes Burdensome New Ridesharing Regulations. Uber Applauds. What Is Going on Here?


Tough news for Washington, D.C., area college students looking to make a few extra bucks: For most of them, ferrying customers around the city for a service like Uber or Lyft is now illegal. The D.C. Council today passed a slate of new regulations covering ridesharing companies, one of which says that 19- and 20-year-olds need not apply. Reports WUSA:

Drivers must be 21-years-old and they must successfully pass a criminal background check and driving history check. Drivers must also have [$1 million in] liability insurance and must register with the D.C. Taxicab Commission.

You might think this would have the ridesharing industry up in arms. Not long ago, after all, Uber was leading the charge against the regulations that were keeping innovative new transportation options from taking on traditional cab companies. But quite to the contrary, the company responded to the vote by firing off an email congratulating the District for being "a trailblazer in the transportation industry" and saying the Council "displayed tremendous leadership in pushing through this bill." My, how times have changed.

In fact, what changed was Uber's position in the marketplace. The company is now a household name worried about protecting its share of customers against scrappy upstarts and competitors, like Lyft. Why wouldn't it support forcing everyone to jump through the same hoops it, as an established player, already does? As the Mercatus Center's Matthew Mitchell explained for Reason TV, "They sort of stepped inside this regulatory velvet rope and then put it up right behind them." Uber's email admits as much, albeit using far more saccharine language:

From the beginning, Uber has required extensive background checks, vehicle inspections and top quality insurance coverage. This legislation affirms that responsibility … We are proud that Uber's safety standards have set the bar for ridesharing in DC.

For more on what the battle over ridesharing regulations is really all about, watch the full "Uber Wars" video, below.