Uber

Uber Still Facing Battle for Its Life in Various American Localities

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While the U.S. is still not detaining Uber execs like they do in France, the wonderful smartphone app ride-summoning service still faces a fair amount of hostility in the U.S. from competitors, and from city governments often acting on behalf of its competitors. (In November 2014 I surveyed the state of the legal fight against Uber, Lyft, and similar companies in a long Reason feature.)

As Stephanie Slade reported here last month, New York City politicians are floating a plan to reduce growth in Uber and Uber-like services to one percent a year while they study New Yorkers transportation options. Michael Goodwin of the New York Post sees political skulduggery at work:

The council said it wanted to "freeze" the number of app-hailed cars for a year while the study played out, and the mayor's office instantly shouted amen.

No previous traffic study ever required a freeze of emerging technology, a fact nobody attempted to defend. Instead, trying to add a sheen of class warfare, Mayor Bill de Blasio's taxi boss, Meera Joshi, assailed Uber and Lyft as options that offer "instant gratification" for the "privileged."….

Taxi moguls, meaning big owners of yellow medallions, have long been hefty donors to de Blasio, and gave over $500,000 to his mayoral campaign.

Similarly, council members pushing the legislation have been cozy with the owners, and one, Ydanis Rodriguez, head of the Transportation Committee, even suggested a bailout for owners because competition is lowering the value of the city-issued medallions.

The leader of the anti-Uber movement is Gene Freidman, the so-called taxi king because he owns over 900 medallions….

The pattern and the connections, along with the extraordinary attempt to protect a wealthy monopoly, raise suspicions that demand answers.

Who coordinated the push for the legislation? Who first suggested a cap for the non-medallion cars? Who suggested freezing the current numbers during the congestion study? What promises, if any, were made?

As one insider who knows the issues said to me, "There has to be a dirty deal here. The whole thing makes no sense otherwise."

While it doesn't make sense, hostility from a political class captured both financially and intellectually by entrenched interests is widespread far beyond New York.

For example, St. Louis recently scotched Uber plans to give free rides for a weekend over taxi commission permitting demands on its drivers. And Key West is threatening all Uber drivers with arrest if they try to operate in its quaint little town, after Uber admitted defeat in South Florida's Broward County (in a move doubtless intended to make regulators back down under customer/voter pressure). And of course the shadow of having its contract drivers declared employees, with all the crushing expenses that could come with it, hangs over the industry in California.

The rideshare app companies have won customer love and regulator attention by mostly operating first and asking questions later, a strategy that may cause them more and more trouble ahead, though I have to believe that life-improving tech will eventually beat hidebound rules.

By the way, a boo to both Uber and Lyft for their (within their legal rights!) barring of weapons for both customers and drivers, inconveniently announced after an armed Uber driver wounded a gunman who was shooting into a crowd in Chicago.

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  1. OT: What the fuck with with the UK and child molestation scandals?

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/a…..idens.html

    1. Kind of like the Rochdale gangs issue? Scary stuff. America has it’s own issues with this too. I think we just sweep them under the rug better than they do.

      1. Yup. I get the sense that powerful pedos in Hollywood, Washington, etc. have something of a network, and watch each other’s backs, probably due to having dirt on each other. I can’t imagine why else Hastert got shoved off the front page so fast. A boy-fucking former Republican Speaker? The media should have been drooling.

        I’m still waiting for someone to blow the lid on Epstein and Friends. Hopefully someone safely tucked away in another country, with powerful friends, after Hillary has won her primary.

  2. Nothing short of a revolution is happening in the way we get around town; ride-sharing services are only the first wave. The backlash will be even more intense when self-driving cars are feasible and rolling off the assembly line; personal ownership of cars (other than for pleasure) may become unnecessary.

    1. Call Wake me when the cars can roll themselves off the assembly line and into service…

    2. There won’t be much pleasure in owning a car you’re restricted from driving on the government’s roads. As Doherty would say: (within their legal rights!)

      1. I certainly don’t want human drivers going the way of the horse-and-buggy… but my kids may not care. Will people born today even learn how to drive cars? They probably won’t even realize any freedom is being lost (“Wait, you used to drive yourself around?!?!”).

        1. but my kids may not care.

          I’d hope you raise them better than that.

        2. Your kids may be retarded.

          I taught myself to drive a manual transmission at 13. (77-78 gas crisis. Dad had his “nice car” and his “work car”, which was a ’72 Vega- and I knew where the spare key was) He went bowling on Friday night at 6 pm and wouldn’t be home before 11pm.

          I’ll bet I put 3-4K miles on that thing in Spring 78 alone- I was even smart enough to put some gas in occaisionally. :o)

          Being a Vega, I also remember a trip where my friend and I had to push it two miles home when it died…

          Good times!

  3. As Stephanie Slade reported here last month, New York City politicians are floating a plan to reduce growth in Uber and Uber-like services to one percent a year while they study New Yorkers transportation options.

    They must be using those computers that helped centrally-plan the economies of Soviet Russia and Chile to come up with that 1% number.

    Either that or they scooped it out of the toiled after a few seconds of pushing. I lean towards the second explanation.

  4. By the way, a boo to both Uber and Lyft for their (within their legal rights!) barring of weapons for both customers and drivers

    It’s within their right, of course, as you said. It does make sense because if something happens ?a Uber driver shoots somebody, even if in self-defense? the company is going to be blamed for it, somehow.

    1. It’ll still be sued, I am sure, as the deep pockets but a blanket ban gives it a solid defense in court (“we explicitly banned it; we remind drivers and users of the ban on threat of termination from the service; we have terminated violators; we had no way to find out as it was hidden from us”).

      And, seriously, I don’t think they want to fight the taxi lobby AND the anti-gun lobby.

    2. It does make sense because if something happens ?a Uber driver shoots somebody, even if in self-defense? the company is going to be blamed for it, somehow.

      Didn’t happen in Chicago. The driver was hailed as a hero.

      Of course the gun-control response (sometimes in the same paragraph) was to wonder why a Uber driver would ever need to carry a gun. Apparently they missed the part where he stopped a mass killing. And there were a number of man-on-the-street quotes from people who said they would be scared if the driver was armed. Apparently they also missed the part where he stopped a mass killing.

      Or, of course, they believe mass killings in gun-free zones are preferable to legally-armed drivers stopping them.

      I don’t think they want to fight the taxi lobby AND the anti-gun lobby.

      The experience of businesses like Starbucks is that a gun-control lobby boycott causes a pro-gun spike in sales. 12,000,000 concealed handgun licensees is a big market to pi$$ on.

  5. Where’s BigMike to tell us that Uber and Lyft are the devil? I miss his cronyism apologia.

    1. Uber is “the devil” when they lobby for, not just for access, laws restricting competition. I believe they have done that in some markets already. Food trucks were doing it too.

  6. Isn’t Uber trying to get local governments, where it does operate, to restrict competing services?

    Does their (within their legal rights!) weapons ban carry any weight of criminal enforcement by state or local governments? Or is it just a “company policy”?

    There are two kinds of weapons bans by private property (business) owners depending on a state’s laws. In GA, and some other states, a property owner can post “No Guns” but they can only enforce it by denying armed people entry or asking them to leave ( entering w/o permission or not leaving when asked is treated as misdemeanor trespassing). Some other states hold that disobeying a “No Guns” sign is a criminal offense in of itself. Would it be a crime for a driver or passenger to carry a weapon in an Uber affiliated vehicle in these states?

  7. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s taxi boss, Meera Joshi, assailed Uber and Lyft as options that offer “instant gratification” for the “privileged.”

    *rolls down window*

    1. So… city employees?

    2. And here I thought “the privileged” either rode in limos, or stayed put and let the peons take Uber to get to them.

  8. Uber and Lyft clearly underestimated the power of crooked local politicians and the cartels that bribe them.

    1. If so, they were very short sighted, virtually all local governments have sided with their cronies.

      In one of the few non stupid laws passed in Montana this year they got the taxi business out of the control of the public service comission.

      Ironically, a local firm here has a couple Priuses taking fares that calls itself “Green Taxi” and had to go through a lot of bullshit 5 years ago to get the right to provide rides. In this case they were lobbying against uber ride services. Funny how the newbie evolves into the crony.

      They are no better than the entrenched yellow cab fucks now. I was on their side then, but now I could give a shit if they go tits up,

  9. I find it amazing how much government hates carpooling after encouraging it for decades. One would think they’d just tax the transaction and be happy, but there’s no such thing as a happy government employee. Even the ones making 200K a year complain about how underpaid they are.

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