Join 3,496 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Jitney?
November 22, 2012 6:07 AM   Subscribe

Heyride, an Austin startup that is revolutionizing the way you get around town, received a cease-and-desist from the City of Austin. This follows Uber's forced NYC shutdown last month, along with California sending cease-and-desists to Lyft, Sidecar, and Tickengo. Paul Carr links these disruptive technologies to Metafilter fave author Ayn Rand (previous thread); it's not the first time he's taken on the nerds. Wharton and Wired weigh in.
posted by jkolko (66 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
What are the arguments against ride-sharing schemes? Do they hurt public transportation systems? Are they biased against certain demographics? Are they dangerous?
posted by pracowity at 6:17 AM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


From the Austin Chronicle article linked above:
The [cease-and-desist] letter advised Huck that “Heyride very closely resembles […] a taxi franchise, and that any operation dispatching drivers to potential passengers on-demand requires a City Council approved Franchise Agreement, and that all drivers are required to successfully satisfy criminal background and driving history checks as per Austin City Code.”
posted by nightwood at 6:21 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are lots of other issues involved too, depending on the company and state in question, ranging from how mileage traveled is calculated (official goverment regulated meters are required for taxi services), to price transparency (it sounds like Uber doesn't bother to inform customers when they've raised their pricing on heavy demand days until the customer gets the bill), driver licensing concerns, vehicle maintenance concerns, etc., etc., etc.

Basically, the argument is that these are not ride-sharing schemes but illegal taxi services that deal with the associated regulations by ignoring them completely.
posted by kyrademon at 6:29 AM on November 22, 2012 [13 favorites]


It seems fairly obvious that some of these companies are much more closely approximating "taxi service" than "rideshare". I have no idea how Heyride is distinct from a taxi company, to be honest, other than that taxis being owned by their drivers is somewhat rare.
posted by hoyland at 6:30 AM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


... whereas, on the other hand, it sounds like Tickengo might plausibly be simply regularising how much gas money (or whatever) someone is given for a rideshare.
posted by hoyland at 6:31 AM on November 22, 2012


Man. On the merits the stuff with Uber, et al should bother me. I'm pro-markets! I want consumers to have choices! I live in a city where the taxi service is objectively awful!

And yet there is nothing that drives me crazier than (rich, white) nerds flipping out over not being allowed to call a black car from their iPhones. The attitude of these companies, as the Paul Ford piece mentions, has been horrendous; they haven't even remotely attempted to smoothly integrate themselves into the communities they want to operate in.

Privilege run rampant: Randian entrepreneurs ignore the law; their acolytes cry because their "needs" aren't being taken seriously.
posted by downing street memo at 6:36 AM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Regulations can exist to prevent competition. But they also exist to protect people and ensure basic compliance with the law. I'm all for removing the kinds of regulations that prevent competition and prevent innovation, but I'm not interested in throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
posted by Forktine at 6:53 AM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


When your service utilizes infrastructure, that infrastructure is, in and of itself, your most important client.

This is true of all businesses. In the case of Uber et. al. the infrastructure is the existing regulations surrounding taxicabs. That regulation exists for a specific reasons, the same way there are regulations around every other form of transportation. They have emerged out of a shared history of transgressions against the commons. (It's interesting to compare these issues to those of environmental issues)
posted by Freen at 6:55 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I liked when Atlanta put the train line out to the airport. The taxi drivers started demanding that there be big fare surcharge on that trip, and the city told them to go to hell.
posted by thelonius at 7:04 AM on November 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Just fyi, there are exceedingly popular rideshare sites in several European countries, especially mitfahrgelegenheit.de in Germany. I'd expect they couldn't shut down an honest rideshare site like that, well ridejoy.com does fine afaik, ditto the hitch hike across a toll bridge schemes in NYC.

These around town rides might prove more tricky to organize, but surely one could do so without behaving as detestably as taxis, god I hate taxis. You might perhaps create a ride auction site where you punch in your plausible routes/areas as either a driver or a rider, along with a desired price. It'll then suggest that riders and drivers join relevant bidding pools in which both the drivers and riders modify their prices. If there aren't enough drivers, then it'll put riders in contact to split a cab and/or tell them bus routes. You'll avoid most local regulations by simply avoiding any involvement in the financial transactions, support the site using either ads or membership dues instead.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:04 AM on November 22, 2012


The licensing laws in the states for Taxi services seem to be more protectionist then for the overall public good. Opening up wider, simpler licensing would reduce fares, improve quality (if you believe the benefits of competition) and decrease the time you need to wait for a cab because there would be more available.

Seems quite nice that if you lived in a more rural area, you could check on these services and essentially put a bid out and a neighbour, who might not even be 'on duty' could jump in their car and give you a lift.
posted by Static Vagabond at 7:05 AM on November 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


they haven't even remotely attempted to smoothly integrate themselves into the communities they want to operate in.

What? What the hell does that even mean?

To call cab drivers in my city awful is an understatement - a majority of them are complete assholes. There are regulations that they constantly don't follow - asking people where they're going before they get in the cab, locking them out and speeding off if it doesn't work for them, they don't pick up black people, they keep guns in their car, etc - totally illegal stuff.

And somehow being able to call a black car on your iphone is the devil? Because "white nerds" like to use it? What? Maybe if someone can explain why these regulations that they're breaking exist in the first place and tell me exactly what social good they're supposed to be promoting, I'll change my thinking around this. But at the moment I think that if someone wants to create a private cab/"rideshare" company and compete against the fucked cab culture in my city, they should be able to goddamned do it.
posted by windbox at 7:09 AM on November 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Baltimore has its hacks.

More on hacks.
posted by josher71 at 7:14 AM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


What? What the hell does that even mean?

Read the Paul Ford piece. Uber waltzed into dozens of cities without even the pretense of observing the duly-written laws of those communities. They just ignored them because they're "revolutionaries" or whatever.

Maybe taxi regulators have been captured in your city; they certainly have been in mine. That doesn't mean you can just ignore the laws. And I think it's funny that all the industries aforementioned white nerds are so eager to have "disrupted" are ones that, well, they don't work in.
posted by downing street memo at 7:15 AM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe if someone can explain why these regulations that they're breaking exist in the first place and tell me exactly what social good they're supposed to be promoting, I'll change my thinking around this.

The point is that there's absolutely nothing stopping a non-licensed cab from doing the things you're complaining about. If you're paying attention, you at least have the option of noting the number of a licensed cab and complaining. Whether that would do you any good is a separate issue.
posted by hoyland at 7:16 AM on November 22, 2012


I don't see breaking the law as a good way of changing it. It can be very hard to break it just this far and no further.

Taxi protectionism has a downside as mhoye says, but unregulated systems that flaunt the law and can rip off (and endanger) the common public are hardly the ideal solution.
posted by YAMWAK at 7:16 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes because I want registered sex-offenders to be able to pick up my teenage son or daughter for "a ride".
posted by blue_beetle at 7:17 AM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Make it a club.
posted by sfts2 at 7:20 AM on November 22, 2012


[A couple of comments deleted; please just say what you want to say without being gratuitously snide to other users.]
posted by taz at 7:24 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


blue_beetle-- If the current taxi licensing is along the lines of "Only 50 licenses are to be added this month" and the other end you imagine is "Anyone can be a driver for this service! Paedophiles welcome!" perhaps, just perhaps, there's a middle ground that could be "Criminal and driving record clean? Sign up here".
posted by Static Vagabond at 7:25 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love the non-profit, donation-based car service company in my city. It's word-of-mouth. You text them telling them you need to go from A to B at [time] and they text you back to say yes, see you then, or sorry, we're booked. If you really don't have any money, they will still take you. If you are a regular (or probably even if you're not), they accept barter (one driver told me about a regular who was cashless one day but who paid her in coffee and bagels). They're queer. It's like getting a ride from a friend; we got a lift one night from a driver who had her small, adorable dog with her, and the dog sat in my lap during the trip. Cab service in this city suuuucks, so I'm glad to have this option.
posted by rtha at 7:26 AM on November 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


Metafilter: Anyone can be a driver for this service!
posted by Mali at 7:27 AM on November 22, 2012


[A couple of comments deleted; please just say what you want to say without being gratuitously snide to other users.]

Fair enough. My point stands, however, that broad deference to the law where corruption and regulatory capture are very clearly in play is a ridiculous position. Nobody should genuflect to bought laws at the expense of the public good; that's bad for all of us.

That said, I apologize (to Freen specifically, as well as the rest of the thread) for my tone in one of the now-deleted comments.
posted by mhoye at 7:30 AM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


windbox I guess the first question I'd ask is when you are subjected to these regulatory violations by said drivers do you report them? It's all well and good to complain about regulations not being enforced, but if no one is reporting the violations because the culture is just to accept that taxis all suck and will never change, then it's hard to expect change or more enforcement.
I personally avoid cabs and try to stick to public transit, and every time I've had a problem with the CTA's service I contact them and register my complaint. As I result I have seen a few small helpful changes. The service still needs a lot of work however.
posted by MrBobaFett at 7:34 AM on November 22, 2012


but unregulated systems that flaunt the law and can rip off (and endanger) the common public are hardly the ideal solution.

Is that what's happening, though?

It looks to me like the problem here is that regulation is being shown to be a largely pointless activity benefiting established interests over outsiders.

There are two ways to react when the regulatory scheme is shown to be non beneficial. You can look at rolling back regulations (gasp!), or you can decide to raise the bar on regulatory requirements in order to justify the regulations (ahh.. back in the safety zone). I find it interesting to see which side people fall given those choices.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:46 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


the people getting worked up about "libertarians" and Rand remind me of that quote about choosing your enemies carefully because you will come to resemble them
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:50 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do these services offer any substantial savings in the cities listed? The one that is available where I live does not, so there is no reason to use it unless you have a real yen for an expensive town car.
posted by Gin and Comics at 7:56 AM on November 22, 2012


The point is that there's absolutely nothing stopping a non-licensed cab from doing the things you're complaining about. If you're paying attention, you at least have the option of noting the number of a licensed cab and complaining.

But these aren't the regulations we're talking about - we're talking about regulations that prevent companies like Uber from being allowed to compete.

When people argue for private police and fire companies, yes, they sound like libertarian idiots. But cab companies? No - anyone should be able to compete with these fools if they think they can do a better job - given they follow safety, licensing, and passengers rights laws. But these regulations that specifically prevent competition with the cabs? What good do they serve? What, exactly, are we collectively supposed to gain from them?
posted by windbox at 7:59 AM on November 22, 2012


What are the arguments against ride-sharing schemes?

Well, taxi driver is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in America - You'll note that of the other jobs on the list, most are not piece work, and that many of them are fairly well paid.
Allowing amateurs to swoop in and take the safest, most lucrative rides is basically tipping the entire field strongly against the professionals, and would either cause fatality rates to go up (As more cabbies take dangerous fares to make ends meet) or force professionals completely out of the market disproportionate to the number of amateurs that replace them.
posted by Orb2069 at 8:04 AM on November 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Taxis are a horrendous rip off. Seven mile trip to the airport is forty dollars? Sic 'em.
posted by telstar at 8:04 AM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Orb2069, what, to a customer is the difference between a professional taxi driver and an amateur? The high-bar was the original London Knowledge cabby, who had to study for about three years to pass the test, they were markedly more knowledgeable about the city then your average joe.

But your average pro cabby these days is someone who has the amazing ability to constantly talk on their bluetooth headset, while getting slightly lost, turning on the GPS, or just plain asking me for the directions.

So if all it takes is a GPS and a clean license to match the quality of a modern professional cabby, why the heck shouldn't we allow more people into the party.
posted by Static Vagabond at 8:19 AM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


But these regulations that specifically prevent competition with the cabs? What good do they serve? What, exactly, are we collectively supposed to gain from them?

A regulatory check against bad behavior?

In order to drive, I have a driver's license. It certifies that I've passed a basic driving test and that I'm aware of all the rules of the road. If I break any of those rules, my license can be suspended or even revoked.

I see the idea of licensing taxi cabs in the same way. If taxi operators drive recklessly, cheat customers, or do something that harms the public, their right to operate as a taxi service can be revoked.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 8:19 AM on November 22, 2012


But these aren't the regulations we're talking about - we're talking about regulations that prevent companies like Uber from being allowed to compete.

No, these are the regulations we're talking about. The departments/boards/whateveryouwanttocallthems which control cab licenses are the people who have leverage over the behaviour of cabs.
posted by hoyland at 8:20 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Opening up wider, simpler licensing would reduce fares,

In my city, taxi drivers are already underpaid (under minimum wage sometimes). That's partly because they have to rent taxi licenses from the taxi barons, so if we could get rid of the transferable/inheritable license system that would be good.

But even then, it takes a lot of money to run a cab - and I don't want lower fares if it means that drivers get paid less per hour.

We do already have taxis that you can phone and arrange pickup - we always have. It shocked me when I heard that there are some places where you must hail a cab, instead of calling for one. I would rather have calling and no hailing than hailing and no calling.

one place I lived, you could even request a cab to come at a specific time on another day. It was a relatively small city with only a few taxis, so this was a very important service if you needed a taxi to catch a train or long-distance bus. You could call the day before and book a specific time, to be sure that there was a cab available when you needed it.
posted by jb at 8:25 AM on November 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Do these services offer any substantial savings in the cities listed? The one that is available where I live does not, so there is no reason to use it unless you have a real yen for an expensive town car.

I just checked Uber's rates here in Minneapolis, where I had no idea they operated. The equivalent of flag drop is $7 and a minimum fare of $12. And I thought the fact that taxis have a minimum fare of $5 was outrageous. Uber has fixed fares to the airport, which is nice, I suppose, as I don't think the taxis do. But they cunningly charge $30 more for starting points north of I-94. Funnily enough, the southernmost hotels in downtown Minneapolis are about four blocks north of I-94.
posted by hoyland at 8:27 AM on November 22, 2012


Uber is fantastic in San Francisco. Our taxi system is terrible, awful; cabs are hard to find, there is no dispatch, the drivers are rude and incompetent, the cars are old and broken. I'm delighted to have an (expensive, premium) alternative. I have zero sympathy for cabbies who are losing business, because they've had such contempt for their captive customers for so long. Uber is fine on a regulatory basis; they're operating under the rules of black cars / limos / town cars, licensed drivers. Uber just provided a better way to find one than making a phone call to a service.

Lyft, I'm not so sure about. I haven't tried it yet but from what I've read it's entirely unlicensed and unregulated. Some random guy picks you up and gives you a ride in his car. What could go wrong? The regulatory workaround is that instead of paying the random guy you have a "suggested donation". Hey, no business being transacted here, it's all just a gift!
posted by Nelson at 8:28 AM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've heard an awful lot about disruption, lately. It's very easy in many instances to read it as a shorter way of saying, "Fuck you, gettin' mine."
posted by adamdschneider at 8:30 AM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I use Uber.

The value of the service for me is that I don't have to hail, I can call the car discretely and quietly as I'm leaving the restaurant instead of shouting at a rude dispatcher, the car is guaranteed to have GPS so I don't have to spend 15 minutes giving turn-by-turn directions, and I don't have to take out my wallet much less have cash. The fact that Uber is a franchise means it works exactly the same when I land in another city where I couldn't possibly give directions since I don't live there. (As a woman I don't particularly enjoy standing alone in an unknown neighborhood hoping for a cab at 2am.)

If the outcome of all of this is that ordinary taxi services gets even one of those features because of the demonstrated pent-up demand, it will be a huge win for consumers.
posted by nev at 8:38 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


The substantive complaint I've seen against them is that they're less safe than using regular taxis because they don't pay taxes on the mileage driven, instead only paying sales tax, invoice tax, dock and tariff on the vehicle, insurance tax, the tax on all of the gasoline, and the sales tax on all the associated maintenance of the vehicle. This tax imbalance causes all of the previously foolproof safety devices in the car to invert into negative safety zones, increases driver drowsiness and increases road rage.
posted by jarvitron at 8:44 AM on November 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have zero sympathy for cabbies who are losing business, because they've had such contempt for their captive customers for so long.

I don't think the Uber demographic is the 'captive customer' demographic, though, which goes back to this being about 'rich white guys with smartphones'. The captive customers are the people who rely on cabs to get to doctor's appointments or to transport bulky purchases home, not the people who get a cab home after a night out. I don't own a car and it's totally possible to live in Minneapolis without a car and without taking cabs. However, it become much less possible to never take a cab if you're not able to walk a mile, say, without a second thought, particularly in the winter.
posted by hoyland at 9:03 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm really confused: isn't this a slightly more sophisticated version of the mini-cab situation that runs alongside black cabs in London? Except only unregulated - like they were in the beginning? (And that...well, it sometimes turned out well and sometimes absolutely awful.) I know now people are using iPhones to call them, but I can't see what's so disruptive about this anymore than using an internet site to order delivery of pizza is when compared to phoning the pizza place? What makes it so disruptively magic apart from the fact that, like a lot of rogue alternative taxi service that start up, they're unregulated? It's not like that's new, surely?

(I have read the articles, but still can't work out why I'm supposed to be amazed that someone is running a limo service using an app.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 9:08 AM on November 22, 2012


the car is guaranteed to have GPS so I don't have to spend 15 minutes giving turn-by-turn directions

The only time I've done Uber, the driver was using Apple Maps, had trouble finding the place, and would have had trouble arriving at the destination if I hadn't been giving turn-by-turn, and as it was, probably added $10 to an already-on-the-pricey-side fare.

The attitude of these companies, as the Paul Ford piece mentions, has been horrendous;

Is there a Paul Ford piece? I see Paul Carr, but no Paul Ford.
posted by weston at 9:14 AM on November 22, 2012


I don't think the Uber demographic is the 'captive customer' demographic, though, which goes back to this being about 'rich white guys with smartphones'. The captive customers are the people who rely on cabs to get to doctor's appointments or to transport bulky purchases home, not the people who get a cab home after a night out.

I've wondered about this. In most places right now, I think the taxi market is kind of bifurcated -- one set of users are the captive customers, and the other set are business people going to the airport, clubbers getting home, etc.

And while these services sound great for the second demographic (that is, people like myself), I can easily imagine a "disrupted" market turning out to be terrible for the captive taxi customers who might get left with the scraps.
posted by Forktine at 9:26 AM on November 22, 2012


I don't think the Uber demographic is the 'captive customer' demographic

I meant "captive" in the sense that if you wanted a ride in SF before Uber, your only choice was a cab. Because taxis had a monopoly on convenient pickups. With fantastic monopoly service, broken down cars driven by rude guys chatting on the phone who have no idea how to navigate the city. Oh and you couldn't really call a cab, because there is no meaningful taxi dispatch in SF. That was my only option for getting a ride home from a night of drinking. Now thanks to Uber I have an alternative.

The bad thing about Uber is it's expensive. About 50% more than a taxi, in SF. It's a luxury service for the privileged. I'm all for fixing the ordinary taxi system too so that it works better too, but I have no idea how to do that. The political entrenchment of taxis in the US is legendary. Maybe Uber's competition will force some better service from taxis. Honestly I have more hope for things like TaxiMagic improving things.
posted by Nelson at 9:32 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just adding my anecdote about taxis in SF.

My experience over a dozen cab rides in 4 years is that SF cabbies are courteous, engaging, and thoughtful.

The worst experience I had was when a cabbie with a lit On Duty light dropped a fare off and abandoned me and a friend in dire need of a ride.

Every time an SF cabbie has picked me up, the ride has been direct and the conversation appropriate (including the two times when there was no conversation).

YMMV
posted by mistersquid at 10:10 AM on November 22, 2012


So. shouldn't these companies simply compete by obeying all local laws and regulations (which many cab drivers don't do), plus offering additional legal services on top of that, plus excellent modern branding?

I can, right now, legally call a cab to show up at a remote office at a certain time to take me back to the airport, but after multiple instances of the dispatchers being rude and/or the cab not showing up, I rent a car and expense that instead. Couldn't a cab cimpany legally offer an iPhone app to have the dispatcher verify a cab via email, or call me back, or heck, couldn't a company just hire better dispatchers? And, you know, send over a clean cab as promised?

If the answer is yes, then compete that way and charge more, be the ArcLight Cinemas of cabs, I think that's a great idea. If the answer is no, the laws won't let you do that, then fight to get the laws changed before you start doing business, or get into another legal business.
posted by davejay at 10:15 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I detest taxis, avoid em' like the plague. You can however eliminate the corruption in the licensing process.

Dublin adopted a simple open taxi registration scheme after their high court ruled that the limited taxi licenses were discriminating against immigrants, ultimately this greatly benefited consumers. Irish cabbies seeking to cater to racists still display this green light however.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:50 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh and you couldn't really call a cab, because there is no meaningful taxi dispatch in SF.

This confuses me, as I have often called cab companies, talked to the dispatcher, and had the cab show up. I think I've only done this from my home, or friends' homes, and not outside a bar or whatever, but still. We usually use Veterans when we're calling for a cab. Sometimes it takes longer than I'd like (and one time a cabbie was insisting he was outside our house but he wasn't; turns out he was on what he thought was our street but it wasn't our street. Sigh.).
posted by rtha at 11:02 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


"then fight to get the laws changed before you start doing business"

But is that more effective then the method they've chosen? They've picked what they deemed a gray area in the law, and since they're still operational, I imagine they have a partial case.

By walking the nebulous line of the law, they've created a company that provides a service to the wider public, and with that they've gained more publicity and created a much better opportunity to actually change the law to allow them to shift the gray area away from them.

I just can't get my head around why, if people want to be taxi drivers, they should be denied that opportunity. The argument abounds that the city is limiting licenses because it increases pay for the existing taxi drivers, but if you agree with that process, shouldn't we have fixed licenses for cleaners, newsagents or musicians and artificially inflate pay for all low-paying jobs? I'm trying my best not to be hyperbolic (and failing) but why protect this industry and not others?
posted by Static Vagabond at 11:05 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some time ago a client wanted us to make mildly animated lenticular panels for taxi cab roof displays. It hinged on getting a permit for what could be dangerously distracting imagery weaving in and out of traffic. Ultimately it came down to someone telling us that we needed to pay $50,000 in lobbying fees and campaign contributions to get the signs approved. We didn't go for it, but years later there are now fully animated electronic signboards on taxis. I wonder how much that cost those guys.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:49 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it's worth noting that the biggest violators of taxi laws are taxi drivers themselves and taxi commissioners know it and don't care. This is demonstrably the case in DC, where the Taxi Commisioner (who is so old that he personally was present when Adolphus Q Taxi invented the first Taxi in 1874) will admit it to the Washington Post.

“We know cabdrivers are not following the rules and things are getting wild past midnight,” he said. “The drivers know we don’t have the resources to keep inspectors out so late, so they are rolling the dice and taking a gamble.”


As someone who routinely arrives at Union Station after midnight, it's a disaster scene. Hundreds of people line up to be abused by taxi drivers. They force people to share cabs and when one person gets out, they pay the full amount posted which not reset. So four people will go to Dupont, paying 20, then 25, then 30, then 35.

It's an open problem - just like the fact that taxis won't take people to certain parts of town (against the law) won't pick up black people (against the law) won't install panic buttons (against the law) are routinely cited for sexual assault, have a long history of gay bashing. The list goes on and on.

So the regulations don't actually regulate the industry itself - at all. So why should we insist on selective enforcement against the only people trying to solve the problem?

Imagine if Wal-Mart sued unions and tried to shut them down because they sometimes used volunteer labor from college students getting credits instead of paying them full wages and benefits. That's where we are.

This year, over just a few weeks, 7 DC taxi drivers were arrested for sexual assault. None lost their taxi licenses. This is a small fraction of the number of complaints. There's been no attempt by drivers, cab companies, or the regulators to address the problem. There was a long-standing resistance to panic buttons. This is the clearest statement of priorities I'll ever see.

Uber could charge 10x as much but so long as there are 0 sexual assaults, I just can't take anyone seriously who argues for taxis.
posted by allen.spaulding at 11:59 AM on November 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Also, taxis are an insanely lucrative business. Insofar that drivers are underpaid, it's due to messed-up systems like medallions and other ways that bosses keep a disproportionate amount of the revenue. The idea that we need to protect the taxi system is as valid as the idea that we need to protect oil companies from competition because gas station attendants don't make a ton of money.

And many drivers underreport revenue (esp tips) because they're in cash.
posted by allen.spaulding at 12:05 PM on November 22, 2012


There are basically two kinds of regulation. Stuff that solves real problems, and laws written by lobyists designed to enrich whoever paid for 'em
posted by delmoi at 12:34 PM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Count me as someone who, over the course of seven years in San Francisco, has some sympathy for our cab drivers. Mostly nice, courteous guys with a couple of loud, sleepy, or lost guys mixed in there from time to time. I've gotten the cabs I've called for when I needed to go to the airport; when the bars have just let out I don't bother, but isn't that the same everywhere?

The one issue I've had a little more often lately is "broken" credit card readers that magically fix themselves again if its clear that I don't have enough cash for the fare.

Nevertheless, I agree with the decision that we as a society have made that the business of driving people around the city is one where the safety of the service, like that of restaurants, is hard or impossible for individuals to know ahead of time, with potential consequences for everyone.
posted by intendedeffect at 1:16 PM on November 22, 2012


Regarding the bifurcation of the "captive" cab market, my argument is that there isn't one. The seniors and the disabled are likely taking publicly subsidized dial a ride or the city bus, or they have built a relationship with a single cab driver and/or company to provide services. Unfortunately, disruption is going to cause issues among certain parts of the population, but that doesn't mean technology shouldn't march on.
posted by calwatch at 1:44 PM on November 22, 2012


When I say San Francisco does not have a functioning taxi dispatch system, I mean specifically that you cannot call and have a cab guaranteed to pick you up. If you call Veteran, or Yellow, or any of the other cab companies all the "dispatcher" does is take your address and put it out on the radio that someone wants a pick up there. There's no actual dispatch of a specific cab to come get you, no meaningful ETA, no guarantee someone will pick you up at all. Calling for a cab can work OK if it's convenient for the driver, but if you're in an awkward part of town or it's a busy time of day or night or the drivers just don't feel like picking you up, they don't. When I lived near West Portal I quickly learned not to bother ever trying to call. Even in Noe Valley I'm about 50/50 when I've called cabs, and the pickup can be anywhere from 3 minutes to 20 minutes.

Cabs don't have to work this way. In Paris, for instance, when you call a taxi the cab company commits to sending a specific car to you with a specific ETA. It's not magic of course; if the cabs are busy they'll tell you "no". But they'll tell you specifically no, and if they can pick you up they will tell you specifically when. That is dispatch.

There's no reason SF taxis couldn't do dispatch, they just don't want to bother. (There may be something regulatory too in how the drivers are technically independent operators.) And until Uber taxis had no competition, so why would they bother providing better service? This is where TaxiMagic is interesting; it's smartphone based dispatch like Uber, but with traditional cabs. My experience with it has been pretty good; not quite as reliable as Uber, but not bad.

Back to the subject of the fine post here, both Heyride and Lyft are experimenting with unlicensed drivers and unregulated cars. That seems pretty risky to the consumer to me. Uber, at least in SF, is more reassuring in that it's working with existing licensed cars and drivers and just making it easier to find them.
posted by Nelson at 2:44 PM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Orb2069, what, to a customer is the difference between a professional taxi driver and an amateur?
...
I just can't get my head around why, if people want to be taxi drivers, they should be denied that opportunity.

...I don't think anybody's stopping people from becoming taxi drivers - There's two companies hiring within commute distance of me as we speak. This is just about stopping companies from stealing fares from the existing businesses that do all that stodgy old 1.0 shit like obeying the law, having insurance, licences and verified trip meters.

Thing is, nobody working with heyride wants to be a taxi driver. They want to be the easy part of being a taxi driver - They want to work the cherry hours picking up tipsy hipsters from bars and getting them back to their trendy lofts, and maybe the occasional lift when they feel like it.

Imagine what your job would be like if your boss hired it out piecemeal, and 22-year-old boomerang kids came in and underbid you on all the easy parts?
posted by Orb2069 at 4:39 PM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I like the system in London better.
posted by humanfont at 5:01 PM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is just about stopping companies from stealing fares from the existing businesses that do all that stodgy old 1.0 shit like obeying the law, having insurance, licences and verified trip meters.

And think of all the buggy driver jobs that will be lost as these horseless carriages steal fares.

I've never been to a metro area of more than 2m people where anyone believes taxi drivers follow the law. Or are safe either for passengers or other drivers on the road.

It's not like we have the mob moving in here to sell cut-rate cookies to undermine the girl scouts.
posted by allen.spaulding at 5:13 PM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


"This year, over just a few weeks, 7 DC taxi drivers were arrested for sexual assault. None lost their taxi licenses."

Allen.spaulding: Let's review your claims:

1) the story says "assaulted" not "sexually assaulted." You inflated the crime to make a bad thing seem far worse than it was. Assaulted is bad enough. Inflating it just shows that you aren't credible or reliable.

2) the story makes clear that the assailants have been arrested and the crimes are being investigated. It does NOT state (as you claim) that they are still able to drive taxis.

3) the story makes clear that the taxi commissioner is reacting strongly, doing things like installing panic buttons for the passengers, while you imply they're doing nothing.

I don't know why you spun a bad story to make it far, far worse, but please find it in your heart to show some respect to basic honesty.
posted by grudgebgon at 7:29 PM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


windbox writes "these regulations that specifically prevent competition with the cabs? What good do they serve? What, exactly, are we collectively supposed to gain from them?"

In theory (and we all know about the difference between theory and practice) regulation of maximum taxi service levels should result in safer cabs. Maintenance is pretty well the first thing to be deferred in a race to the bottom in any industry. Also regulation that certifies meters if you are going to charge by the drop + mileage (obviously less of a problem in by the hour service).

Static Vagabond writes " The argument abounds that the city is limiting licenses because it increases pay for the existing taxi drivers, but if you agree with that process, shouldn't we have fixed licenses for cleaners, newsagents or musicians and artificially inflate pay for all low-paying jobs? I'm trying my best not to be hyperbolic (and failing) but why protect this industry and not others?"

Three reasons: the first is they can. Cars are heavily regulated and there are enforcement schemes in place that taxi regulation can piggyback on. The second is the safety argument both for fares and for the people the taxis share the roads with. Finally there is case to be made that business and tourist travelers will shun a city with poor taxi infrastructure in a way that doesn't happen if all the dry cleaners are shady and you can't buy a newspaper at 6AM on a Sunday.

Now obviously there are problems with enforcement in some jurisdictions; maybe even to the point that no regulation at all would be better.
posted by Mitheral at 8:32 PM on November 22, 2012


And think of all the buggy driver jobs that will be lost as these horseless carriages steal fares.

Maybe you aught to scroll back up to the snark warning and go over it again? I realize your reading comprehension in english is (apparently) pretty bad from your response, but make the effort.

I've never been to a metro area of more than 2m people where anyone believes taxi drivers follow the law. Or are safe either for passengers or other drivers on the road.

Normally, I would at least make a token effort to see if this had any grounding before responding, but you really don't rate the trouble. Mind backing any of this up with a cite from somebody besides the cities full of people whose minds you can apparently read?
posted by Orb2069 at 8:40 PM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


A look at Heyride's website shows no evidence that they've solved the insurance problem with individuals driving commercially.

Typical auto insurance policies don't cover commercial use, so a non-trivial accident will be a hot mess of medical bills, property damage, and (quite likely) financial ruin.

Maybe I missed something, but it appears to me that these cars are essentially uninsured vehicles.
posted by grudgebgon at 9:10 PM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I live in San Francisco and take taxis fairly frequently (hundreds of trips). There is no real dispatch service, just the guy at taxi HQ giving out addresses over the radio. Quite a few times I've waited for cabs that never came. Now I don't bother calling unless I know it is a very slow time of day.

A lot of cabs try to ask you where you're going before they'll let you in the cab.


I've gotten the cabs I've called for when I needed to go to the airport.

Well sure, that's the most lucrative fare in the city. That doesn't really tell you anything.
posted by ryanrs at 11:29 PM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Last time I took a cab in SF was from the airport. I was headed south of the city so the driver told me there would be an extra fare (150%?). I agreed and we were on our way.

When I got to my hotel, I handed him my credit card. Wow did that guy get mad. How could I subject him to a credit card payment? He had kids and needed cash, now!

I didn't relent so he swiped my card and handed me a bill to sign. It had the entire surcharge in the tip column. Like, $72 on a $120 fare. What a crook. And then he handed me a piece of paper I could fill out myself as my "receipt". Thanks, now I can be a crook too.

I have taken hundreds of cabs in my home city and they never care how you pay. They always have to offer credit, debit and cash (although they can't always give change, and will warn you). Tipping is optional. You always get a hard copy receipt with miles driven, rate and the tip you specified.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 9:52 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just fyi, your credit card company will let you dispute only part of a charge. You cannot dispute quality issues when requesting a chargeback, but such billing fraud sounds worth a try. You should obviously never lie when requesting a chargeback, just tell them exactly what happened. At least you'd worry the cabi whenever he gets notified about the investigation.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:16 AM on November 24, 2012


« Older During the Thanksgiving time of year, our thoughts...  |  With the NHL locked out for th... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments