NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Cities Crackdown on Private Transport

August 29, 2013

Uber pulled into Dallas one year ago, offering residents a ride with a few taps of an app. Uber, which uses your smartphone's GPS to track you down, sends you the flat rate for getting from Here to There, and dispatches a nearby car-service driver, whose progress can be followed all the way to the pick-up point. Sounds like quite the ride, but Uber has always maintained: "Uber is not a transportation provider." It maintains it's a tech company that just makes it easier for drivers and passengers to connect, which is how, much to the chagrin of cab companies, it has skirted cities' rules and regulations that steer the car-for-hire business, says Robert Wilonsky, writing with the Dallas Morning News.

Dallas City Hall aims to change that.

  • The Dallas City Council was scheduled to vote on a substantial city code rewrite that will redefine everything from who can dispatch a car to who can drive a limo to the cost of a limousine's off-the-lot sticker price (has to be more than $45,000).
  • And the city doesn't want people to be able to order up a limo whenever they want: The rewrite, says the addendum, will "require limousine service to be prearranged at least 30 minutes before the service is provided."

The addendum item doesn't come out and say it's aimed directly at Uber, only that "the use of computer applications and other technologies by some providers of limousine service has distorted certain distinctions between limousines and taxicabs," and that it's high time the city "establish those distinctions to help the public understand the differences between those types of passenger transportation services." City Hall also wants to be able to regulate drivers being dispatched via app.

In September Yellow Cab President and CEO Jack Bewley said Uber is using the app "to skirt the regulations." Cab owners in the United States and Europe have been trying for months to crackdown on these app-driver start-ups.

That hasn't hurt Uber's ability to raise money: At week's end, the company said it raised $258 million during its latest round of cash-collecting, and that Google's senior vice president of development now has a spot on its board. It is said to be valued around $3 billion. Some of that money has gone toward fending off legal challenges aimed at keeping Uber off the road, like the case in Cambridge, Massachusetts -- which Uber won in June.

Source: Robert Wilonsky, "Dallas to Rewrite Limo Regulations In Effort to Calm Cabbies Unhappy with App-Summoned Uber," Dallas Morning News, August 25, 2013.


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