Taken for a ride

This menacing-looking block appeared on page 4A of the Sunday Oklahoman:

Avoid Ride Sharing Vehicles - Public Is At Risk

Not hard to guess who put this up, I thought, and duly hauled myself over to the Web site in question. I was, of course, correct:

We are an initiative of the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA). TLPA has been the leading source of for-hire vehicle industry knowledge since its founding in 1917.

But I was curious as to the pitch they’d make, so I read on:

Whether Uber and Lyft are referred to as “ridesharing” or “Transportation Network Companies,” the simple truth is that these companies provide for-hire transportation services. Understanding the methods by which Uber and Lyft undercut for-hire vehicle safety — via inadequate insurance, background checks and more — requires knowledge of the for-hire transportation industry. “Who’s Driving You?’ explains the safety components Uber and Lyft are evading and why they are vital for the wellbeing of passengers and communities.

There’s a whole page of “rideshare incidents,” linked to various local news sources, although the section that gives me pause is “Imposters”: incidents involving individuals who were posing as Uber (never Lyft) drivers.

In other words, it’s a trade association protecting its turf, as trade associations will do. I’ve ridden in lots of cabs, but never in one of these gig-economy entities, so I can’t tell you what they’re like. But you have to figure the cabbies realize they have competition now, and it’s a fairly safe bet they don’t like it.

Weirdly, at almost the exact moment I finished the first draft, this appeared in my tweetstream:

I know the tweeter in question, and she’s not one to trump up things, so I’m guessing people she knows have stories to tell. “Be careful out there” is always good advice.



  1. Bill Peschel »

    7 March 2016 · 10:10 am

    I indirectly encountered the Imposter syndrome when I heard Kevin Smith’s daughter was solicited by two guys in a fake Uber car. They could have been scum; they could have been trying to undercut Uber.

    In either event, she didn’t go with them. Uber has a system whereby your smartphone connects with the driver’s smartphone. He has a picture of his pickup, and you are notified when the car is in the vicinity.

  2. McGehee »

    7 March 2016 · 2:10 pm

    My cab experience is limited to Fairbanks, Alaska, where I imagine the industry must not have been as heavily regulated as, say, in NYC — simply by virtue of the fact that regulatory capture hadn’t imposed much of a barrier to entry.

    When I lived there the cab companies represented a literal rainbow. King Cab was blue; Fairbanks Taxi was, IIRC, green; Yellow Cab was obviously yellow. And there were orange, red and even purple cabs — and those were just the ones based right in Fairbanks. There was at least one based out of town that seemed to serve Fort Wainwright personnel who lived on the side of the post away from Fairbanks.

    While living in Georgia we tended to call an express van for airport travel, but now that we don’t fly anymore that’s history.

  3. McGehee »

    7 March 2016 · 2:17 pm

    And I did actually have a point about regulation (which I just remembered was why I started typing): Where cabs are regulated — by the government, or by a union — it tends to be expensive to get into the business, and thus expensive to hire a cab. Better service and safety are the usual arguments for this.

    Fairbanks, however, is a small town to support that many cab companies. If a driver screws up, everyone will know what color cab he was driving, so the company has an incentive to ensure its drivers behave themselves.

    Uber is a well-known upstart that everybody in America has heard of. Its incentives are if anything even stronger. Meanwhile governments and unions tend to try to prevent the market from having its way with an unsatisfactory business or employee.

    In many ways the TLPA is inadvertantly helping rideshare companies improve their service in ways many TLPA member outfits are shielded from having to deal with.

  4. fillyjonk »

    7 March 2016 · 7:10 pm

    Arguably, in some cities, it’s necessary to have a “safe contact” (who will check up on you if you don’t arrive) if you’re taking a taxi. I remember a few dodgy taxi rides from my younger days…

    Have also heard that some former drivers are selling their Lyft mustaches and whatever Uber uses as identification online – so yeah, buyer beware. At least with the app I think you can check up on what car your driver is supposed to have…

  5. Chuck Pergiel »

    8 March 2016 · 11:32 am

    There are only a limited number of taxi cab licenses, which means they are valuable, which means they people who own them want a cut, and sometimes their share of the take is larger than the driver’s. So I can see the license holders complaining, it’s their ox that is being gored. Drivers, not so much.

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