Dude, Where's My Uber?
Seattle has joined a long line of cities fighting a dire threat: services like Lyft and UberX that will, if left unchecked ... um, give lots of people convenient and affordable rides to their destinations.
But Seattle is not going to put its citizens at risk that way! The city has capped the number of drivers for its three major services at 450, less than a quarter of the number currently estimated to be operating in the city. Seattle's residents can breathe easy knowing that they no longer need to fear that they will get a convenient, affordable ride at any hour of the day or night.
OK, the sarcasm button is off. I hope you'll forgive me, as I submit that I was provoked: I've been reporting on Uber for more than two years now, and in that time, I have not heard regulators evince one creditable reason for their long twilight crusade against Uber and services like it. Most of the time they don't even try. Nor will they come out and state the real reason: that taxi drivers don't like competition. It's enough to make you a bit testy.
As it happens, I do feel for taxi drivers. They don't make very much money, because it's hard to make a lot of it when your basic equipment is something 90 percent of Americans also possess: a car, as well as the ability to drive it. I don't blame them for trying to make "the right to drive a taxi" scarce enough to give them some monopoly profits.
But that doesn't mean I'm obliged to go along at the expense of consumers who are often equally cash-strapped. And while I don't blame the drivers, I do blame taxi commissioners, who are supposed to be working for the citizens of their cities, not the tiny fraction of those citizens who happen to be professional taxi drivers or the owners of taxi medallions. Hopefully the citizens of Seattle will check this nonsense. But until they do, the least the rest of us can do is point and laugh.
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(Megan McArdle writes about economics, business and public policy for Bloomberg View. Follow her on Twitter at @asymmetricinfo.)
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