Opinion

Why not let taxis, Uber, Lyft fight it out on a level playing field with no regulations?

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Opinion,Transportation,Op-Eds,Government Regulation,Uber

Taxi drivers created traffic gridlock in downtown D.C. last week to protest app-based ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft.

The organizer of the “Fairness NOW!” caravan protest, the Teamster-affiliated D.C. Taxi Operators Association, is complaining that these private companies have a competitive edge because they do not have to obey by the same regulations as cabbies.

These taxi drivers are demanding that the D.C. government order the private sedan services to cease operations until a “fair” resolution is reached.

They believe that these companies are stealing work from D.C. taxi drivers because of the city’s inaction to create a level playing field.

The irony is that some of the burdensome taxi regulations were pushed by big taxi companies as a way to stomp out their competition.

They just didn’t foresee the creation of technology transportation companies that are currently exempt from the burdensome laws. Now, they want to broaden the scope of the regulatory targets to include Uber.

I agree that all transportation companies should compete on a level playing field. The government shouldn’t give any special advantages or disadvantages to any company. All companies should have to compete based on the merit of the service that they provide customers.

Judging from the Twitter responses to the traffic-clogging protest, many D.C. residents have no sympathy for the taxi drivers.

A common response is: “If taxi cabs want business, they must learn to compete.” And they sure have a ton of complaints about the quality of service from D.C. taxis.

I understand where they are coming from. My limited experience with D.C. taxis has been iffy at best. Taxi drivers don’t always have the most pleasant attitudes.

They often make questionable maneuvers on the roads. People have complaints about their difficulty in hailing a cab. Often times, the car smells bad. And so on.

On the other hand, I’ve always found Uber’s services to be reliable, convenient, affordable and safe. I’m a regular user of their services and I’ve never had a bad experience.

Yes, D.C. taxis need to learn to provide a better service if they want our business. However, it's important to acknowledge that we don't live in a perfect free market society--nowhere close.

D.C. taxis are highly regulated by the government. There are rate, coverage area, insurance requirements, caps on the number of vehicles they can have out on the road, and other regulations with which taxi drivers must comply.

These regulations do not apply to Uber—and I say, good. Private sedan services shouldn’t have to deal with these regulations.

Budding entrepreneurs cannot afford to jump through regulatory hoops to provide a service to the community.

Many innovative companies would be forced out of business and countless drivers would lose their jobs.

Likewise, taxi companies shouldn't have to deal with those government regulations, either. If government regulations are stifling taxi companies and preventing them from competing with private sedan services, then it's time to re-evaluate the regulations on the books.

Taxi drivers are saying that Uber drivers have an unfair advantage because they don’t have to deal with all of the regulations.

OK. Why not, then, reduce government regulations on taxis? Isn’t that a much better option than increasing regulation on pioneering companies?

Let’s level the playing field by allowing taxis to compete on the same level as Uber instead of shutting down competing companies through the government.

In actuality, ride sharing services are heavily regulated — by the people. Due to customer review websites like Yelp and social media websites, businesses have never been more accountable to the people.

Uber, for instance, has a rating system that allows customers to review the driver after the ride. Customers can rate the driver based on professionalism, driving, car quality and other factors.

Passengers can choose to not accept a ride from a driver with a subpar rating. This gives drivers motivation to provide a good quality service to every customer.

Uber doesn’t need a law requiring background checks of their drivers. They already do it. They require all Uber drivers to pass rigorous background checks at the county, state, and federal level before they are ever allowed to have access to the technology. Why? It’s because customers demand a safe ride.

The answer isn't to make it terrible for all drivers in the name of “equality.” The fair and better solution is to get the government out of the way of everyone trying to make a decent living.

Julie Borowski is a policy analyst at FreedomWorks.
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