Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Uber is Here to Stay...and It's Good For Us

Yes, please.
Say what you will about Uber, or it's more affordable option, UberX. 

Rhetoric has been compiled by an industry that has been playing fast and lose with a monopoly for decades. Around the country, Uber drivers have been accused of being reckless and harassing customers. In all likelihood those accusations are 100% correct. But the fact many seem to ignore is: taxi drivers have been getting away with this for years.

It's a double standard likely caused by a multitude of reasons. For starters, taxi cabs have been reputedly disgusting since the dawn of hired carriage rides. They're rude, they stink, and they'll take you on a joy ride if you don't know where you're going. It's easy to call out an isolated disservice in an Uber car because Uber gives you a venue to call out the disservice

Your Uber driver has a predetermined route to guarantee an accurate estimate. The driver cannot claim that the "credit card machine is down" to pocket the fare. The transaction takes place in the cloud. And if - worst case scenario - you have an unseemly altercation with your driver, you know exactly who's driving you. 

The gripes that don't sidestep reason seem fixated on Uber's apparent assault on a timelessly nostalgic and struggling institution, as if you're being carted around in a horse and buggy, not a twenty year old Caprice Classic with worn shocks and bald tires. 

Industries change and cabs are by no means the struggling poster child for a dying industry. If they are dying, they're dying at the hands of their owners. 

A medallion required to operate a taxi cab in Philadelphia cost $65,000 in 2005. Thanks to an uptick in transit minded residents, DUI checkpoints, and simply more reasons to be downtown, that cost rose to nearly half a million dollars. Well surprise, surprise, that $475,000 price tag is as dead as the Studebaker. The Philadelphia Parking Authority - who in a baffling conflict of interest apparently oversees Philadelphia's taxi cabs - allowed the asking price to be lowered to a paltry $350,000.

What's more mind blowing than any of this is why, when faced with an apparent rise in demand for cabs in the last nine years, the value of a static number of medallions was raised, and not the number of medallions themselves. In a giant "f*ck you" to the consumer, the foundation of the cab industry, the PPA allowed medallion owners to sidestep the very process by which competitive industries work. And now Uber is giving them exactly what they deserve: a cold, hard reality check. 

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