Find a back issue

What Should Dallas Do About Uber? DOUBLE Ctd.

If we could all just unwrap our mouths from Uber’s tailpipe for a moment, I’d like to offer a slight counterpoint to the “leave Uber the hell alone” sentiment out there.

First, I understand why people hate cab companies. (Although most of my experiences with cab rides in Dallas — probably one a month, on average — are just fine.) I know why people love Uber — I do, too. I am all for innovation. I’m all for letting the market get rid of inefficiency and pre-Internet monopolies. I understand the consent-agenda stuff was sneaky and the law was targeted at Uber and I’m glad Wilonsky wrote about it and alerted everyone to what was going on and people made up cool hashtags and got all Twitterpated and on and on and on. I really am.

That said, the argument that Uber makes — that it’s a tech company, not a car-service company — is patently absurd. It is, to quote its chief data guru, an “app-based on-demand private driver service.” As such, we should either a) ask it to come into regulatory compliance with the services with which it competes, meaning cabs; b) do away with those regulations for everyone, cabs included; or c) rewrite the regulations to cover both entities in a way that better understands the new market landscape, offering appropriate oversight yet with enough freedom to allow true competition. Personally, I like option “c.” But chanting “leave Uber alone” is basically saying you’re swallowing Uber’s PR points just because you like their service, which is a silly way to run a city.

Update: A lawyering Frontburnervian passes along this post from D.C., where they are grappling with the same issues. Said FBvian says that “Uber is great” but “that doesn’t mean that Uber shouldn’t be regulated. It just means we should carefully craft the regulations to ensure the public health and safety, and forget about protecting the bottom line of cab companies.”

  • Eric Celeste

    I have not.

  • Eric Celeste

    Although what if I had?

  • Eric Celeste

    Argumentum ad hominem.

  • steve h

    Peter, you look like an attorney but your post look more like pr. You cannot find an uber car in any underserved area in the United States . This is the most discriminatory transportation company you can imagine. Poor, African Americans , Hispanics are under represented in credit card ownership.

    The Cambridge case just said the governor had power to allow gps meters until weights and measures figure out if the meter is accurate. Minor thing of making sure the public is not ripped off.

    If an uber customer wants to spend 25 bucks they get to be a baller. Does not seem unreasonable to me ?

  • steve h

    Read your uber contract. Headquartered in the Netherlands . Take zero responsibility for your car or driver. All is cool until something bad happens in transportation.

    Yellow cab should incorporate off shore and not be responsible for who they dispatch too ?

    Slippery slop of lawyers and legal ease.

  • Commoner

    Such a bunch of crap, “steve.” “Read your uber contract.” Should Travelocity or Expedia take responsibility for what happens to me on an American Airlines flight? Your problem with Uber is that it works too well and is going to force whatever crappy cab company you’re shilling for to get better at what it does. So un-American, this competition and innovation …

  • Commoner

    No. Does Uber hire drivers?

  • Fowler Nordheim

    Maybe Dallas noticed this ? From a couple sources, Uber plans to become more directly involved in transportation via investment from google and potentially using self-driving cars:

    http://techcrunch.com/2013/08/22/google-ventures-puts-258m-into-uber-its-largest-deal-ever/

  • Commoner

    Awesome.

  • Commoner
  • Tim Rogers

    Well, this escalated quickly.

  • Jefferson

    This counterpoint is a leap Bob Beamon would be proud of.

  • Commoner

    It is indeed, and very exciting.

  • Lee

    At the end of the day (I like to add this when I am commenting on a day-old post), if Uber needs additional regulation then so does Yellow Cab. Because if I can’t get a cab driver to either pick me up at my house in Kessler Park or drop me off there at the end of the night, then I am in trouble. Uber has never once not showed up quickly when I requested a pick-up or made a single complaint when I have asked them to drop me off at the end of the night.

  • Wes Mantooth

    You rang?

    Sorry, I didn’t see the spotlight in the sky. Gotta work on that.

  • Wes Mantooth

    I think that Eric killed a guy with a trident or something.

  • Eric Celeste

    Sigh. Sure thing, Rich. List of past clients: Craig Watkins, Angela Hunt, Dallas Housing Authority, Jim Ammerman, Express Working Capital, Wolford Weibring, Haynes & Boone, Oliver Wyman, American Airlines, Academic Partnerships, SwiftAir, Oncor. My girlfriend also works for Oncor so I’m incredibly conflicted there, which I’ve noted on this blog. I have friends in high places at Luminant and TXU and Stream Energy, so actually I’m conflicted about the energies in general. Who else? I know most of the PR people in town, most of the consultants in town, some of the politicians in town, many of the journalists in town over 30. I’m friends with a few sports writers and talk show hosts, I count several of the area’s top bartenders as mates, and I know a restaurateur or three. I have several friends who are lawyers, a couple in commercial real estate, and one who has been banned from The Lodge. I also know the owner of The Lodge. I’m friends with Jeff Duffey of Jeff Duffey Realty — he used to be my neighbor and we’d get sh***y on wine together. Who else? I know many folks at the DMN and at the businesses the DMN owns. (Hi Mike! Hi Alison!) I dunno. Is that good, or do you want a list of people with whom I’ve spoken, too?

  • Eric Celeste

    Yes. You pay Uber. Uber pays the driver. That’s hiring, no matter what loophole the company jumps through. Also: Expedia doesn’t dispatch the planes. Uber’s app does.

  • Eric Celeste

    Yes, yes. You’re correct. All stuff worth figuring out and moving ahead so Uber can kick the hell out of cab companies that don’t adapt and innovate.

  • Commoner

    What does dispatch have to do with regulation? There is nothing regulated about dispatch. The reason cab companies are regulated, in part, is because dispatch is not required–they can be hailed, and the consumer knows nothing about pricing or quality of service when the cab is hailed.

    Uber doesn’t HIRE the drivers. The drivers are licensed operators hired by limo companies, who are also licensed themselves. Uber contracts with the drivers to use their technology to connect with passengers and collect the fee. Uber keeps a 15% commission and remits the remainder to the driver or limo company.

    You can call it “hiring” if you want to, but it is brokering through the use of technology.

    Why you would have to regulate a dispatch company is beyond me.

  • Eric Celeste

    I have no idea, but if your guesswork as to my sources on stories is any indication, you’re SPECTACULARLY wrong. As to an earlier question: I am D’s columnist. I am and have always been, except in news stories where it’s made clear, an advocacy journalist. I write about my passions, and I try to do so in an informed way — but sometimes, as in this case, it’s just me telling you what I think.

  • Eric Celeste

    “City” columnist. Sorry.

  • RAB

    Eric:

    Please also list the people you currently owe money to.

  • Eric Celeste

    Commoner, I don’t know why I can’t reply to your post, so I’ll reply here. From your post: “Uber remits the remainder to the driver or limo company.” In English: They are your car pimp. They take 15 percent off the top, but they still pay the driver or company. Paying them means they HIRED them. According to a lawsuit filed today in Boston, some Uber drivers agree: http://www.xconomy.com/boston/2013/08/28/uber-sued-again-over-tip-skimming-claims-case-could-go-national/

  • Eric Celeste

    Oh, it did reply in the right spot. Ignore that point.

  • Eric Celeste

    MUCH longer list, RAB. Wait, we’re square, right?

  • Commoner

    Eric, I’m sorry, but I can’t agree with your premise that “paying them means they HIRED them.” The customer pays, which means the customer hired the driver. The fact that Uber charges a percentage of the fee collected for the dispatch service does not mean that Uber hires drivers.

    More to the point of my original post, though, why would that activity–connecting licensed limo drivers from licensed limo companies to customers via GPS technology–be something that has to be REGULATED? What is it about the dispatching technology that would require regulatory oversight from our paternalistic City officials?

    The answer is: nothing. No more need for regulation and additional laws on the books than a need for the City to begin regulating what reporters can say in a magazine or what magazines can be offered for sale. The only reason this is coming to a head, at all, is because the Uber service is so good that it is a threat to the monopoly that the cab companies–particularly Yellow Cab–have ascended to through years of “regulation,” lobbying, and cronyism.