You can always find a cab in London or New York — well, Manhattan, anyway — but suppose you live in Albuquerque or sprawling Los Angeles? Best you make your call from a major hotel, airport or train station, right? And if not, be prepared to wait and pay through the nose besides. Or even be told you’re out of luck if the hour is inconvenient.
That looked like opportunity to some savvy Internet operators who decided to serve this ignored market via downloadable apps now known as Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and others. They realized that high unemployment provided people with cars who needed cash and people who needed rides to someplace and that the Internet could bring the two together, to the benefit of both. So today, if you need a ride, you can use your phone or tablet to notify say, Uber and a registered Uber driver will see that and for a price, offer you the ride. And the price is typically less than a cab would charge. plus, the service is often faster. It’s called: “Ride Sharing.” And it has started a war …
The good it does: People find affordable rides when the dinosaur cab operators would ignore them or charge the proverbial arm and leg. And unemployed folk with cars can make some money. What’s not to like?
That depends, as the cat said when asked about his tail. The traditional cab companies and their unions are having a fit. And the governments that regulate said cab companies and license them and charge them fees are lined up behind the cabs. Never mind that the unemployed need work and that the cabs are now dinosaurs supplying poor and overpriced services that are a drain upon the economy. The state of Colorado has just legislated regulation of the ride-sharing industry in that state. It’s the first.
The reports mostly saw Colorado’s legislation as a welcome to Uber and Lyft, somehow failing to note that the new laws add requirements that will add costs for operators to pay. And more egregiously, failing to note that the new law hands essentially unlimited regulatory authority to the state bureaucracy. The old cabbies’ union and the cab corporations have been joined at the hip with the politicians for years; how will unorganized, independent and usually not wealthy Uber and Lyft drivers protect themselves from the lobbyists surrounding the regulators?
All that is interesting and it may get you a ride when and where you need it, a ride that hasn’t been available — and it may keep some folk with cars but no job afloat, too. But the gut reaction of government is to quash it, subtly or in plain sight. Uber, Lyft and Sidecar trample on too many monied interests and as old Jesse Unruh said in California: “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.”
Why should these new ride sharing folk be regulated in the first place? Why not leave them alone for a while, to develop? If things operated in Henry Ford’s time as they do today, old Henry would have been better off making buggies …