The Attack on Ridesharing Doesn’t Go Anywhere

Why the attack on ridesharing? Taxi Cab companies are corrupt monopolies that benefit a few in city government and a few who can pay off the city government and are putting transportation out of reach of the poor. So they attack competition. Naturally, a source of corrupt money attracts defenders. So we get this editorial in the Washington Post: “Who will win the ridesharing war? Probably not consumers?

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Up until internet based ridesharing was started up, taxi cab companies had government-enforced monopolies in all cities. The claim that this was for the public good is transparent garbage. It has always been a form of theft, forcing riders to pay a higher price.

Now rideshare start-ups like Uber and Lyft have given consumers choices.

But some want to scare you away from this wonderful change.

[I]t’s silly to assume cities can welcome ever-higher numbers of relatively unregulated quasi-taxis with no costs to consumers.

First, there are the obvious short-term social costs: traffic and emissions.

Just take a moment to ponder the ethical implications of that claim. There are people right now, stuck at home, unable to afford traditional taxi fare and who don’t own their own vehicles. If you don’t believe me, think of what is going on in Ferguson and other small towns with a high level of poverty here in the St. Louis area. One of the constant issues is people being unable to afford insurance or traffic fines. As Radney Balko wrote,

James Wyrsch is here tonight to represent a homeless woman who has old warrants that are preventing her from obtaining housing. In 2011, she was cited in Florissant for driving without insurance. Her failure to pay that fine resulted in a suspension of her driver’s license. She continued to drive, anyway. “St. Louis’ has a public transportation system, but it’s pretty lacking,” says Khazaeli. “The light rail system doesn’t cover a large percentage of the county, and the buses can be unreliable. It’s getting better, but it isn’t great. You have to keep in mind that homeless and low-income people are likely to be working retail jobs, jobs that don’t tolerate tardiness. If you can’t count on the bus to get you to your job on time, you have to drive.” The bus system is also impractical for people with children that they may need to get to day care on the way to their jobs.

So here is Lyft and Uber suddenly empowering those who are un- or under-employed but who have insurance and licenses, to help out people at a much lower cost. This all happens spontaneously through the market without any need to raise taxes to expand “public” transportation.

But no, the traffic problems and pollution are too great. Let these people stay trapped at home. Let them rot there.

The entire argument is: If these riff raff get rides it will degrade my driving experience.

Medallions and other regulations capping the number of livery cars available are often derided as taxi cartel protectionism. But they can benefit the public, too. They limit the number of empty cars driving around looking for passengers, snarling intersections and polluting the air.

If you don’t believe me, check out message boards where drivers talk about waiting hours without getting “pinged” for a ride. 

They don’t get pinged because they charge too much. Duh.

The environmental demand that people lower their standard of living for the sake of reducing emissions goes on and on:

Nearly half of respondents said that if a ride-sharing service hadn’t been available for the trip they were being asked about, they would have instead taken a bus, train or bike — or simply walked.

So city overlords, who have no problem driving their SUVs whenever the whim takes them, are judging poor people for not wanting to walk. This is perverse and evil. It is real inequality—a sacrifice of the poor for a mythical view of nature.

Eventually the writer finally realizes she needs to pretend to care about the well-being of riders so she makes up bad stuff about the future.

For all the rhetoric about the value of competition, the goal of this price war is to neutralize the competition and become the only livery game in town. Which would mean more market power, over both drivers and consumers, probably to the detriment of both.

That is imaginative fiction and the writer’s “evidence” for this prediction doesn’t deserve to be considered evidence (thus my sarcastic quotation marks). Once the city monopoly taxis are defeated and ruined then the ride-share companies will continue to compete. If Uber or Lyft try to collude and keep prices high another ride share service will meet the market needs. There will be no city monopoly.

No one is going to “control” the market. This whole idea is silly and stupid.