By Don McCurdy
Well, okay, maybe not. Reports are that the Uber “A Team” is being disbanded. With as much privacy as a public company can muster, Uber is ushering some of their senior managers off the farm and out into the world. Apparently, some of the hard drivers that founded the company aren’t as civilized as you have to be in modern business.
To ward off evil spirits, Uber hired a connected law firm to help with a little reevaluation of company values. I do so love phrases like “increased inclusion and diversity.” You don’t simply include a more diverse group and magically your problems go away.
Office interactions and politics are as old as offices themselves. Now that some of the elder statesmen of Uber are put out to pasture maybe the next group will screw up the place enough for taxicab companies to compete with Uber. Then again, how did the taxicab industry get in such disarray to begin with?
Uber’s plan A is to set up shop, claim not to be a taxi company and resist all efforts to reign them in. As an observer of the taxicab industry for many years I was quite astounded by the incredible success of Plan A. If cities resisted and banned Uber or made rules so onerous, you know like the ones everybody else plays by, Uber would leave and petition the state to institute state wide regulations.
When the regulatory atmosphere was a little more breathable, Uber would return and conduct business without a lot of pushy rules from the cities. Well, that’s what happened right here in the great state of Texas.
After Uber failed to convince the voters of Austin that Uber drivers shouldn’t have to have the same background checks as taxicab drivers Uber went to the state. Well, that would be state senator Charles Schwertner who authored the bill. Uber has successfully initiated plan B in several states which leads me to ask the question, why only transportation network companies? Why not all taxicab companies as well?
All of the reasons to allow TNC’s relaxed regulation hold true for taxicabs as well, so what’s the holdup? Could it be that taxicab companies aren’t making sufficient “campaign contributions” or aren’t hiring the right lobbyists? Are the votes of the locals meaningless? Can’t get enough good government.
Reports are the Chicago taxicab market is collapsing. Since 2013 there are a reported 774 taxi medallions have been surrendered. Currently there are a reported 6,999 medallion taxicabs in Chicago, with 227,033 shared ride vehicles. Imagine yourself in 2012 paying $350,000 for a medallion and in 2017 having 227,033 competitors that don’t have to pay that to be allowed to poach your turf. The situation is looking pretty grim for many of Chicago’s taxicab drivers, with trips less than half what they were 3 years ago. At some point the taxicab industry will find a level of vehicles that it can support. Meanwhile there are quite a few banks that share the anguish of the taxicab industry.
Uber is arriving on the scene in Manitoba British Columbia. During the dust up that preceded the arrival of Uber in Manitoba, one of the MLA’s (member of legislative assembly) is reported to have leveled the charge of racism against the arrival of Uber because the vast majority of the taxicab drivers are south Asian. Uh huh. The really interesting part was the accusation was made at the “estimates hearings of Indigenous and Municipal Relations Minister.”
Estimates hearings? Indigenous and Municipal Relations Minister? I cannot imagine how civilized you would have to be to have an Indigenous and Municipal Relations Minister. I’m sure that this is all very serious business, but I can’t help but wonder if that is an office of the Ministry of Housing that the Monte Python group spoke of? Perhaps the driver of the cat detector van?
Cedar Rapids Iowa is on the verge of substantially reducing the regulations on the taxicab industry in their city. In an effort to “level the playing field” the city has allowed the taxicab companies to charge what they want, not have an office, not requiring meters, or roof lights. Interestingly the only negative comments regarding the ordinance were from a taxicab company owner. His fear was that customers would be “exploited” by the drivers and that companies would “take advantage” of the new rules.
Really? I would hope the companies would “take advantage” of the new rules and provide better service. Companies across the country have grappled with a variety of issues that would be simpler to solve with the rigid rules of the city off their backs. Want more drivers to work at night? How about a 10 pm to 4 am higher fare?
Drivers complain endlessly about grocery runs. How about a $5.00 drop for the first mile? There are innovative ideas that I can’t even guess at that companies can utilize to compete. Has the industry been controlled for so long that they can’t innovate? Is Walmart going to put Saks out of business?
More and more taxicab companies are competing for the local business. If you travel for business it’s much simpler to summon an Uber, but if you’re good at your business, present a quality product and properly train your personnel. There is a market niche for you. Perhaps, the return of the professional taxicab driver is on the horizon for Cedar Rapids, but based on the lament of the taxicab company, perhaps, not.
Reports are the New York City taxi king is on the ropes with the state for not paying $5 million in taxes. Oops. Apparently, the king hasn’t been a good tax collector for the state. All of the other hounds nipping at his financial heels have best hurry. When the government steps in they usually first to the wallet.
Say what you will about Uber, but Uber has demonstrated something that people seem to not grasp, regulations cost money. The medallion systems, public convenience and necessity rules, closed markets, monopolies and a host of other problems prevent innovation and creation. This isn’t a taxicab/Uber story, it’s a business story.
Is a new regulation necessary? That should be the first question answered before a regulation is initiated or an old regulation is reviewed. Why does this regulation exist? Too often it exists because it can. Government justifying its existence by generating unnecessary and costly regulations is counter productive on a variety of fronts. Protecting inefficient businesses, raising costs to consumers and creating a general nuisance aren’t beneficial.
I read and watch a lot of news. Left, right, fair and balanced, unfair and unbalanced, I try to take it all in. In doing so I’ve learned some interesting things. The number one thing I’ve learned is that news reports are almost never right.
The latest Trump/Russia media orgasm is a classic example. The corporate media exposes what they want rather than what’s really happening. Endless last paragraph qualifiers are turning formerly robust news organizations into National Enquirer wannabes.
I hear the drumbeat that Trump is embarrassing our country, but really our media is totally embarrassing. They no longer offer “news”. They offer gossip. I don’t believe that the “news” industry is repairable. They’ve drug themselves so far into the weeds they simply cannot find their way out.
Is there anyone out there with a simple quest for the truth? There is little doubt that the DC establishment is freaking out about the Trumpenstein monster the populace has unleashed on them, but the media is supposed to tell us the facts with impartiality, not dogma. Take it from a former friend out here in the wilderness: your slip is showing!
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