The taxi industry hasn’t changed much since the invention of the automobile, but that’s not for lack of interest in new ideas. As anyone can tell you who has tried to take a cab to glamorous Queens, there is plenty of room for improvement. Fortunately the past few years have seen the emergence a number of enterprising start-ups are looking for ways to utilize smartphone apps to revolutionize the industry. Companies like Uber, which allows users to request pickups via their phone, have received rave reviews.These are exciting new developments with the potential to make cab rides better and more pleasant for passengers, but they have one obstacle—and it’s a big one: Neither city bureaucrats nor legacy companies are happy with them. Taxi regulations in most cities were written before the existence of smartphones and leave no room for competition from Uber-type companies. The Wall Street Journal reports on the wrath of the bureaucrats:
New York’s new rules, which must be approved by the Taxi and Limousine Commission, alter existing regulations that restrict cabdrivers to picking up passengers who hail them on the street, and ban the use of phones or radios to arrange a ride.Start-ups that want access to New York’s 13,000 cabs will have to tailor their applications. For example, the city will require apps to receive distance and fare information from the existing taxi meter.In the proposed rules, only licensed taxi drivers would be permitted to use e-hailing apps. Any charge labeled as “gratuity” must go entirely to the driver, and drivers may not receive any additional payment for smartphone-hailed trips, so the new services don’t discourage drivers from picking up those who simply raise their hand to hail a ride.
As America transitions away from blue model thinking, this is exactly the sort of attitude we need to lose.