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Posted: March 20, 2013

E-hail—yes!

Going for a free-market ride

David Sneed

If it drives like a duck, and honks like a duck, what is it?

Well ‘phone app developer’ Uber says they aren’t a taxi company.

That’s a little odd, considering you can e-hail Uber from your smart phone and, within minutes, a car shows up to pour you home from the bar.

Sounds like a cab to me.

Only problem is: Uber ignores Colorado taxi regulations.

If you have a problem with a cab company here, the state deals with it (for you) through the Public Utilities Commission. The PUC are the people who keep the gas company from raising your rates every time you start to shiver.

America is great like that, while in other parts of the world, taxi fare disputes can end with you limping wallet-less back to the lit part of town.

Well, Uber pshaw’s procedures put in place to protect passengers. For starters, their fluctuating fares flip with demand, and they don’t say how much until after the ride.

Your first thought may be: Great!  Unregulated is cheaper.

Nope. In some sort of backwards day miracle, the free market has conspired to strip society of rules while simultaneously making it cost more. Four blocks in the rain will be at least $15. If it’s rush hour: who knows. You’ll find out when you get the bill.

Well it’s more convenient than Yellow Cab. Wrong again. Taxi companies have mobile apps too; and PUC licensed hacks have to pick you up.  

Here’s the matchup:

  • Uber claims to be just a software developer, yet you pay them for a ride.
  • Denver area cabs don’t think tech firms should drive people around.
  • Chauffeurs (who work for Uber) say it’s just a limo ride, never mind that the service doesn’t meet the state definition for limousines.

You’d think the fight over e-hailing and the definition of “taxi” is between limo owners and taxi companies; but it isn’t. It’s between taxi companies and HALF of the limo companies. The other half opposes Uber.

Why? Because changes will add regulation, not take it away. Changes will add PUC oversight to limo companies making them all simultaneously more expensive and less accessible.

Are the Lincoln Towncars fancier than a regular cab? You betcha’. Do you feel like a king when you roll up to the club with a chauffeur? Of course you do.

And would I use Uber? Yep. I like being fancy sometimes.

But a few tech-savvy inebriates who want to pimp around town is no serious cause for adding regulation to Denver’s transport system, especially when we already have both taxi companies and rules. And those existing rules cover electronically scheduling a bona fide taxi.

E-hails are coming. Heck, E-everything is coming. I’m okay with that.

But do it under existing regulation. If you can get the rules changed: Bravo! I’m for that too. Until then, play by the ones we have.

I just don’t want every random guy with a computer and a diesel Chevette to start up a car service. That’s how it works in Lagos and Mumbai, and I’m not okay with that.

David Sneed is the owner of Alpine Fence Company,and the author of" Everyone Has A Boss– The Two Hour Guide to Being the Most Valuable Employee at Any Company." As a Marine, father, employee and boss, David has learned how to help others succeed. He teaches the benefits of a strong work ethic to entry and mid-level employees. Contact him at  David@EveryoneHasABoss.com

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

I know what you're saying, Grizz. We only differ on this: Group A has strict regulation and group B has different, less strict regulation. Group A doesn't want group B to compete directly with them because group B has easier rules and lower overhead. It does make sense. If I have to get permits to build fences but my competition doesn't, I will lobby to either deregulate me, or fully regulate them. By David Sneed on 2013 04 04
Just can't put it down, ha! Check out http://www.theatlanticwire.com/technology/2012/12/uber-legal-trouble/59539/. Key quote in the second paragraph: "New regulations adopted by 15 cities nationwide will make it illegal for luxury car services to use GPS devices as a meter and also makes it illegal for them to pick up customers less than 30 minutes before the departure time." Wow...thanks regulators for thinking of the consumer when you took the lobbyists money over the tax base generated by Uber! By Grizzly Adams Jr. on 2013 04 03
David, yup...they're at it again. Interesting enough I just joined a new company and my coworkers rave about Uber when they travel to other cities (the main thing is the pick up time and the convenient payment system). Before I get into an Uber ride I did some more research, mainly focused on whether these guys are random Lagos and Mumbai type of drivers or what. Here's the answer: http://support.uber.com/entries/22346733-Selecting-Drivers . Short answer = no. So the lobbyists and stilted legal system will probably win. From my consumer perspective...if they're using licensed/insured drivers...all these guys are doing is streamlining the booking process. And the customer gets a better ride than a janky old crown victoria. By Grizzly Adams Jr. on 2013 04 03
Griz, It's in the news again: http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_22793326/ubers-survival-is-no-sure-thing By David Sneed on 2013 03 21
Wow...a little late to the Uber bashing! (They started in 2009). That's nice that you want to "protect" the taxi companies and all, but the big boys (Yellow Cab, for one) use shady tactics to block new entrants into the business. I take taxis for work and am always on the look out for which company has the best service at a reasonable price for the area. I've never tried Uber. In Denver I recommend Discount Shuttle for a towncar / limo style ride. Go a ways back and read articles like this one to see how Yellow blocks the new guys. http://www.denvervoice.org/featuresnews/2009/7/1/feature-union-taxi-fare-is-fair.html Thankfully, Union was approved despite Yellow's unethical (but not illegal) tactics. Taxi companies should be allowed to survive or fail on their own merit like any other business. By Grizzly Adams Jr. on 2013 03 21
A NY judge the other day put a halt to NYC's plan to let Uber have a 'trial run.' By Aelius Donatus on 2013 03 20
Just wait until Denver Metro's much anticipated transit system is rolling (any day now...). Then this company might feel the competition a little closer to home and change their pricing structure. I think this company is positioned for the "Business people" of the world who put this ride on their expense account and don't blink an eye at the cost. Besides it's a trendy app du jour and might be over before it takes off. In the meantime, consumers are paying for convenience, slick marketing, and a catchy name. By Relaxi-Taxi on 2013 03 20
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