Taxi app

Taxi app threat goes rogue: Column

  • These new app companies want to hit the taxi industry and its regulators.
  • The Austin Department of Transportation discovered that a felon was transporting passengers.
  • Rogue app executives argue taxi regulations should be relaxed to allow their form of competition.

Arguments in favor of transport applications such as Lyft, Sidecar and UberX are based on an imaginary world where the market corrects itself and solves everything. It’s a dream that will end badly.

These malicious apps would like you to believe that they are not taxis. Instead, it’s “carpooling.” This is a completely misleading classification. When you are driving through a city waiting for a message about your next passenger, you are a taxi driver.

Big money lobbying

With public relations and lobbying efforts Fueled by hundreds of millions of dollars from Wall Street, these new app companies want to hit the taxi industry and its regulators. With the two out of the way, they will be free to put anyone behind the wheel, take only the highest paid passengers, pay no fees to cities, and generate unlimited profits for their investors. Welcome to taxi deregulation.

It is crucial to consider that taxi regulations assumes that even if taxi companies are private companies, they are of public utility. As such, regulation should advance public policy goals, including safety, sustainability, congestion relief, and living wages.

As other cities have found, low barriers to entry lead to problems caused by the uncontrolled self-interest of new entrants. With these electronic bandit taxi services, the barriers to entry are simply removed.

We are already experiencing the damage they cause:

  • The Austin Department of Transportation discovered that a criminal with a breathalyzer attached to the contact of his car was carrying passengers. It also found rogue app drivers with expired insurance, expired vehicle registration, and/or suspended driver’s licenses. Eventually, someone will get hurt.
  • Like a column in the San Francisco Examiner of a lawyer said, there are huge legal risks of being a passenger or a driver for some of these “ride-sharing” companies. By accepting the App, Passengers indemnify the App Company and waive their right to a jury trial. Drivers, on the other hand, waive their right to workers’ compensation.
  • If a “rideshare” driver’s insurance company finds that they are driving commercially under personal rather than commercial auto liability insurance, the insurer will not pay any claims in the event of an accident. Drivers could lose their homes and their savings.
  • In areas and times of high demand, such as major holidays, some rogue apps raise their prices. Since Superstorm Sandy to the recent floods of Toronto, Uber’s prices soared as demand outstripped supply. Where I’m from, it’s called profit. It is illegal and unethical.

High quality

Rogue app executives argue taxi regulations should be relaxed to allow their form of competition. Are we going to relax building codes to allow new competition from unlicensed contractors? Should we wait for a building to collapse before deciding it’s a bad idea?

The taxi industry provides a universal, non-discriminatory service to cities, which in some cases fail to fulfill their role in clearing the streets of illegal and unlicensed providers. It’s time for all taxi dispatchers to enforce their own rules or accept the nightmare that none of us are playing by them.

William Rouse, general manager of Los Angeles Yellow Cab, is president of the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association.

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