Cab Drivers are Uber Mad


July 4, 2014 1:00PM

Cab drivers are uber mad. Quite literally. In recent weeks, cabbies in London and D.C. have staged protests, refusing to pick up passengers. Their beef? Technology and free markets are nipping at their heels. To the chagrin of cab drivers and bureaucrats, but to the delight of everyone else, ridesharing is in vogue. Companies like Uber and Lyft allow people to hail a car through apps on their smart phones with significant ease. This is placing pressure on traditional car services and taxi companies. And those taxi businesses are responding by cleaning up their notoriously filthy cars, chastising their drivers for loudly speaking on cell phones while ignoring passenger requests, and arguing with customers who want to pay with plastic. If only. No, they are taking to the streets, or more accurately leaving the streets, protesting these new rideshare services in an attempt to force government to protect them. The taxi industry already has a cozy relationship with government, operating just short of a cartel in most American—and international—cities. Here in Nashville, one must purchase 20 cars and jump through a myriad of other hurdles just to start a taxi company. A few years ago, Beacon estimated that it would cost a Nashvillian more than $150,000 just to start his or her own taxi service. And much of this regulation is done at the behest of the taxi industry in an attempt to quash its competition. But technology is allowing individuals to personalize services such as hailing a car, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for government to stand in the way. So in addition to pressing for more rules to make ridesharing illegal, the taxi industry has just decided to roll over and play dead in some major cities. Of course, this only attracts more people to Uber and Lyft. In London, the cabbies’ strike drove up Uber users by 850 percent! That’s the type of thing that would cause rideshare companies to give those cab drivers a hearty pat on the back. But of course this stunt will win the cabbies some sympathy with their bureaucratic cronies. Bureaucrats and politicians in cities across the country have begun proposing—often successfully—rules that favor traditional taxis over Uber and Lyft. The entire state of Virginia even banned ridesharing outright, and just this week Pennsylvania ordered Uber and Lyft to cease-and-desist operations. And that’s not enough for the taxi industry, so they must lay down their cell phones and protest? It must be exhausting being a protectionist. -Justin Owen Enjoy the Beacon blog? Help us keep it going with a tax-deductible gift.