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Perspective

The Sharing Economy Needs to Be Better Partners With Cities

Most municipalities have abandoned their efforts to resist the Ubers and Airbnbs of the world. But there’s a lot both sides can do to heal the rift.
Why can't we be friends? A San Salvador taxi driver takes part in a demonstration against Uber.
Why can't we be friends? A San Salvador taxi driver takes part in a demonstration against Uber. Jose Cabezas/Reuters

In the course of just a few years, the sharing economy has progressed from a few scrappy start-ups to an industry of mega-companies worth tens of billions of dollars. These platform-based businesses run on equal parts tech innovation and contract labor, with cities serving as the underlying foundation for success.

To put it simply, cities make the sharing economy work—they provide the dense, free agglomeration of customers, labor, and infrastructure these companies’ business models require. But it remains an open question whether cities and the sharing economy can be friends or enemies.