October 31, 2013

AFF Member Rob Montz and Uber Wars: How D.C. Tried to Kill a Great New Ride Technology

By: Jordan Pic

Uber Wars: How D.C. Tried to Kill a Great New Ride Technology

Let’s be honest, when your Uber Lincoln Navigator arrives to pick you up, you feel a little bit like a Kardashian or Frank Underwood. Uber, the popular and fast-growing tech start-up company, now in twenty other countries, and two dozen U.S. cities, is a smartphone app that with a touch of your screen and a cashless transaction, a driver will arrive at your destination. If you happen to be on an intern budget or the town cars just aren’t your style, the Uber also provides regular taxis as well as the recently added UberX feature, which offers a less-expensive hybrid car option. This variety of options demonstrates Uber’s continued innovation and helps explain its broad consumer appeal. Unfortunately, as longtime AFF member Rob Montz uncovers, despite Uber’s popularity, it is increasingly difficult for startup companies and small business to succeed in D.C.

“Like most powerful innovations, Uber disrupts the status quo by competing with established business interests. In Washington, D.C., the service was an instant hit with city residents – and almost as quickly found itself at odds with D.C.’s powerful taxi lobby and its allies on the city council.”

The Uber Wars: How D.C. Tried to Kill a Great New Ride Technology, is a new documentary from Rob and ReasonTV that highlights the D.C. city council’s attempt to protect taxi drivers by implementing regulations on Uber. One such example was a minimum total ride fare of fifteen dollars. Thanks to an overwhelming flood of support from customers, that amendment was lifted but the battle hasn’t ended there. The council is still debating regulating the service other ways,  such as implementing a 3200lb minimum weight requirement that would hurt the new UberX installation, and also annually reviewing Uber’s transactions. Rob believes the city council has the best intentions but something seems to go wrong in the policy making, leading to a city which is “routinely ranked low for entrepreneurship.” Rob explains that he has been looking for the right story to display the bureaucratic challenges faced by small businesses face in D.C . and when the Uber story emerged it had the right kind of appeal to bring it to the forefront.

The Uber Wars are not an issue people only living in metropolitan areas should be concerned about. Rob explains that people don’t realize the decisions that impact their lives the most are usually made by state and local government, and, as such, “I want this to reach everybody.” The idea that the government should play a role in business stunts small business everywhere. This is not just a story about Uber; it’s about the bigger picture.

Consumer choice and the freedom to choose how to run a business is a fight increasingly relevant in the United States and AFF is excited to highlight Rob Montz  as a member who advocates for those freedoms.

Watch Uber Wars  and check out the Reason.com write-up to learn more!

Jordan Pic is an intern at America’s Future Foundation.