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DC Fights Uber, Hurts Consumers and the Environment


You may have heard of Uber, the innovative taxi startup that’s faced legislative roadblocks in city after city as entrenched interests in bed with local politicians dig in their heels.

Well once again Uber is in the news for upsetting the status quo, this time for introducing fuel efficient vehicles into its fleet of luxury sedans and SUVs and charging rates that are very competitive with regular cabs. What’s not to like about greener cabs at lower costs? If you’re a DC politician, it appears, everything

“If those vehicles were used for this service, that would be essentially having an unregulated vehicle running against a taxi that is regulated. It just simply doesn’t make any sense,” said Neville Waters, a spokesman for the D.C. Taxicab Commission. The hybrid vehicles used by uberX drivers technically are not taxis because they do not have fare meters. Waters says the vehicles fail to meet the size requirements for sedans, too, so they are not eligible for the L Tag registration for limousines and sedans licensed in D.C.

It’s almost comical at this point—we say ‘almost’, because Uber may be shutting down its latest offerings due to the DC Taxicab Commission’s onerous rules. Needless to say, VM’s staffers in DC have used Uber on several occasions, and we all are quite fond of the service. We certainly hope that DC’s authorities see the light of day on this and come to some accommodation with the company. Protecting a moribund cartel like DC’s cabbies from honest competition serves no one’s interests in the long term.

[Yellow taxi image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Corlyss

    One of the reasons DC is such a tough market is Congress. If you have ever pondered on Zone #1, I believe it is, and the size of it, it just have struck you as comparatively odd. It was laid out that way so the Congressmen and staffers could ride between Capital Hill and White House with the smallest fare humanly possible in a market system.

    • Damir Marusic

      Mayor Fenty killed the zone system a few years back and faced down the cabbies who went on strike. It’s a pity Fenty is no longer running this town. He wasn’t perfect, but he was a breath of fresh air given DC politicians’ track record.

      • Corlyss

        Thanks. I’m glad you cleared up the record. I didn’t research the current state of DC’s taxi services until after I posted that. I tried to delete the post, but it wouldn’t let me.

        I regret Fenty’s loss to the current mayor too. Fenty brought in Rhee to make meaningful changes to the execrable education system in DC, and he lost to the current mayor precisely because the entrenched interests didn’t want any changes to said execrable system. Fenty’s gone. Rhee’s gone. And the District still has the happy combination of the most dollars spent per pupil and the worst graduation rate of any major city. It’s a real tragedy for the lives that the old system has been destroying for the last 40+ years.

  • Rick Caird

    Arnold Kling summed it up perfectly when he wrote:

    “Markets are conducive to evolutionary improvement. Government empowers those who want to resist change.”

    He probably should have added “and politicians love payoffs”.

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