Leave Uber's Fate to Passengers, Not City Hall

September 20, 2013

Say a person needs a ride to the airport. He or she can tap an icon on their cellphone and a car will arrive, usually within five minutes. The car is clean, the driver addresses the passenger by name, payment is electronic and the passenger can rate the driver's performance. Normally the charge will be from 20 percent to 50 percent more than a taxicab fare, but most users seem to think the service is worth it, says John C. Goodman, president and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis.

The company that provides the service described above is called Uber. It is rapidly expanding to cities across the country. The public loves it. Who wouldn't love it?

  • Taxicab companies, it turns out.
  • They seem to think they deserve a monopoly on local transportation.
  • Then there is Dallas City Hall. These supposed public servants are acting as if they are on the payroll of Yellow Cab.

An investigative report by The Dallas Morning News last Sunday reveals how far all this has gone.

  • As part of the local campaign against Uber, the police used undercover passengers to try to detect insurance and licensing violations.
  • They discovered none, but still issued 36 citations, claiming Uber cars were violating local ordinances.
  • Those issues are now in court.

If the police department devoted as much time and ingenuity to the pursuit of common criminals, think how much safer Dallas would be.

That brings us to the public policy question: In a city that touts the benefit of free enterprise, why are we regulating automobile transportation services at all?

If there is a legitimate role for government in this market, it's certification, not regulation. Let the city government monitor the car services and make public its findings. Publish in the newspaper statistics on traffic accidents, price gouging, customer satisfaction and other pertinent information. Then let the rest of us make our own choices.

Source: John C. Goodman, "Leave Uber's Fate to Dallas Passengers, Not City Hall," Dallas Morning News, September 18, 2013.

 

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