Tag Archives: Lyft

The Race is On: Uber versus the Real Sharing Economy

A new kind of ride has arrived just in time.

Early in February, hundreds of Uber drivers converged on the company’s office in Long Island City, Queens to object to sweeping fare reductions.  Drivers must charge 15 percent less — while still paying Uber the same percentage, plus the ongoing vehicular expenses.  All with no tips allowed.

Uber justifies the fare cuts as a response to a slow season, and asserts that drivers make up the difference from shortened waiting times between gigs.  It remains unclear why there should be a better view of such conditions from the boardroom than from the street.

For that matter, why can’t such a service be street level through and through?  Mere weeks after the Uber strike, Christopher David is launching the Arcade City platform, which he describes to CoinTelegraph as “a decentralized Uber” whose earnings “won’t go to line the pockets of investors or sustain a corporate hierarchy” but “will be reinvested in our drivers, and in improving the customer experience. … Arcade City will decentralize [fare pricing] decisions to the level of the driver and their customers.”

Worker ownership models don’t depend on unproven technology.  Creator-owned comics publishers have been viable since the brick-and-mortar early 1990s.  An era of apps and Internet ubiquity enables similar enterprises in a variety of fields that will only increase.

So why is the ridesharing field dominated by a handful of big for-profit companies like Uber and Lyft?

Maybe it’s because, for all their clashes with the existing municipal regulatory infrastructure, they’re not all that different from it.  As David notes, “Uber’s approach is to push governments to regulate ridesharing in a manner favorable to their particular business model, stacking the deck against smaller competitors.”

Thus, while the number of traditional cab drivers is strictly limited, the Uber model merely shifts such restrictions to more subtle forms.  If repealing such regulations altogether seems too drastic — the medallion system was seen as a way to prevent a race to the bottom in fares — the ones that most directly suppress worker organizing and wages would be a good start.  And with drivers taking advantage of local knowledge of demand of what riders are willing to pay, it might be the intermediaries who see their earnings race to the bottom.

Only time will tell if Arcade City will succeed.  But the smart money’s on something more like it than Uber — if given the chance.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a contributing editor at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org).


Regulating Rides: Markets Are Better than Politics

RGBStock traffic tunnel

Jacksonville, Florida’s politicians have, once again, arrived at an impasse on the matter of how to regulate “ride-sharing” services UberX and Lyft (Christopher Hong, “UberX, Lyft remain in limbo as City Council looks to state for new regulations,” Florida Times-Union, May 17). Instead of asking the state’s legislature to bail out its regulatory regime, perhaps the city council should exchange the “how” for a “whether,” and answer “no.”

The best way to handle regulation of UberX and Lyft is to repeal all regulations pertaining to taxi and limousine services in Jacksonville (and, of course, in other locales as well).

If that sounds radical, it is. But “radical” is not the same thing as “extreme.” Rather, it refers to addressing matters at their roots. So let’s do that.

Taxi regulation is not, and never has been, about protecting customers. It is, and always has been, about protecting established businesses from competition.

In Jacksonville’s case, the purpose of the city’s medallion system is to keep prices high for the benefit of Jacksonville Transportation Group (owners of Gator City Taxi, Yellow Cab and Express Shuttle) by limiting cab numbers, making entry into the market very expensive, and thus ensuring that JTG operates without significant competition.

When JTG and its political allies spout off about “protecting the customer,” they’re just laying down a line of bull to cover up their real agenda: Maintenance of JTG’s de facto monopoly at the EXPENSE of the customer. This is equally true of similar medallion and regulation regimes in cities across America.

Instead of fighting this monopoly scheme, UberX and Lyft are — in Jacksonville, anyway — ignoring it. Which does get to the bottom of the matter, doesn’t it?

Of course, this upsets the local politicians, who are used to being obeyed. It also upsets JTG, which has become accustomed to making money through control of politicians instead of through open competition to provide the best service at the best price.

But it doesn’t upset the customers — citizens of Jacksonville who, thanks to UberX and Lyft, can now get a ride when they need one, instead of when JTG gets around to providing one, at a price set by the competitive market rather than by JTG’s political machinations.

Jacksonville’s council faces a simple choice. It can remain aligned with JTG by shoring up its monopoly, or it can align itself with the voters, the customers, the people, whom it claims to serve.

If it wants to do the latter, it will resolve that the city shall repeal, and henceforth lay no, restrictions on commercial ride services beyond those codified in state law. Which, in my opinion, UberX and Lyft, and their customers, should ignore as well.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.