“We got rules, we got regulations, we got laws,” said Washington, D.C. Taxicab Commission (WDCTC) Chairman Rob Linton after his January sting of Uber, a new private car service and competitor to the unbelievably inconsistent (read: horrible) cab service in D.C.
Linton directed driver Ridha Ben-Amara to take him to the Mayflower Hotel, where several city regulators ticketed the driver for “not holding a chauffeur license, driving an unlicensed vehicle, not having proof of insurance and charging an improper fare,” according to the Washington Post.
Ben-Amara was fined $1650 and his car was impounded for the weekend. (The author of this piece contacted Uber to speak with Ben-Amara directly about this incident, but he has understandably requested to be left alone by media types.) According to Uber’s blog, the company provided Mr. Ben-Amara with $1 for every Uber ride during the course of the weekend to compensate for lost revenue.
Chairman Linton is your run-of-the-mill regulator, enforcing rules for the sake of enforcement and protecting us from our decisions. In interview after interview in the wake of the January sting, Linton seemed to revel in his regulatory responsibilities. But government regulation improves quality, right?
On Tuesday, May 15, my roommate and I were in Woodridge, a neighborhood in the extreme northeast quadrant of Washington, in the pouring rain. Woodridge isn’t exactly known for its nightlife, and cabs are nearly impossible to come by.
In our quest to get safely (and dryly) back to Arlington where we live, I spent 45 minutes on hold with two separate cab companies (one based just 10 blocks down the street) and got soaked attempting to flag down the only two cabs I saw during the same 45-minute period.
This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced poor cab service in D.C. My first and most memorable experience was New Year’s Eve 2009, when I flagged down roughly a dozen cabs before I found one who would take me across the Potomac River to Virginia. Regulations make it difficult for cabbies to transport customers from Virginia to the District and vice-versa.
Then, I remembered Uber, a membership-based smartphone-enabled service that allows users to request a driver by simply dropping a pin on ones iPhone or Android map. I downloaded the application and flagged a driver. Within 15 minutes, my roommate and I were en route to Arlington.
Uber contracts with sedan drivers, who aren’t making a run, to travelers who are willing to pay a premium for better quality service.
At the end of the ride, no money changed hands, but within minutes of stepping out of the car, an Uber receipt was sent to my email inbox with a detailed map of the trip and a breakdown of the charges. In my three years in the DC-area, Uber provided the friendliest and most efficient service I have experienced.
Politicians in Washington talk about burdensome, job-killing regulations as nebulous ideas, but DC residents and visitors (as well as travelers in cities throughout the U.S.) experience firsthand regulations that stymie competition and often leave them with fewer choices at the expense of innovation.
I, for one, will be utilizing Uber more frequently and looking for other ways around mindless regulations.
Matthew Hurtt is a political writer. Follow him on Twitter (@matthewhurtt) or email him here (Matt.Hurtt@gmail.com).
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Emma Elliott Freire