One of my favorite posts last year was Why Taxis Suck and What You Can Do About It.
With protection from competition and fixed pricing, cabs have little incentive to go beyond bare minimum regulatory standards for maintenance. Drivers may not know where they’re going, and in my city usually don’t take electronic forms of payment. Competition solves these things but local taxi regulators are the archetypical example of regulatory capture, protecting incumbents from competition rather than protecting the public.
New York, like many other cities, tried to crack down on Uber as a competitive threat to incumbent interests. But like in so many other cities, customers who love the on-demand car service and taxi app spoke out loudly enough that it was too much of a threat to politicians and so the regulators more or less relented. It seemed like consumers scored a win in Washington DC as well. But once the spotlight dissipated, things changed again.
DC’s Taxi Commission has long been in the pocket of incumbent taxi interests. Top politicos were sentenced last year after an FBI undercover operation.
There’s big money in protecting big cab operators from competition, and it seems that DC hasn’t given up in its fight against Uber.
With regulations passed last week, UberTaxi will disappear on June 1. Additionally, the next set of regulations, just 3 weeks from passage, will ban fuel efficient vehicles from UberBlack, require Uber to hand over massive amounts of data on your rides, and require Uber to jump over regulatory hurdles every year just to exist. These regulations are unprecedented and far more restrictive than Uber has seen in any of the 30 cities that we operate in.
Apparently the DC Taxi Commission is forbidding digital payments to taxis. They propose requiring annual approval of the Uber’s iPhone app (yes, the taxi commission intends to channel Steve Jobs). And perhaps most bizarrely, they are banning Uber from providing access to fuel efficient vehicles.
That’s right — they aren’t mandating the use of fuel efficient vehicles, as some governments are wont to do. They’re actually banning them.
Hopefully public attention hasn’t moved on too much from this issue.