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Taxi guys opposed : big crowd of taxi men at today’s “DOT” hearing on Governor patrick’s proposed Uber and Lyft regulations

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In Boston there’s a brouhaha going on right now that very likely you haven’t heard much about, but which has already generated intense conlict and much controversy. I refer to the battle between Uber and Lyft, two ride-sharing ride-sharing businesses, and licensed taxis.

Even as I write this column there’s a hearing going on — a day-long hearing — at the offices of Massachusetts’s Department of Transportation at which Governor patrick’s proposed regulations of ride-share firms will be discussed. Patrick has previously okayed these firms to opeerate but now wants Uber and Lyft to conduct criminal background checks for all drivers used and to obtain proper liability insurance. Uber’s managers support the regulations.

Taxi drivers passionately oppose both the regulations and the firms themselves. their view seems to be that the state shouldn’t permit the kind of ride competition that Uber and Lyft bring to the marketplace; that it’s hard enough or taxi operators to make a living without having to compete with the entirely new service offered by Uber and Lyft.

It Is hard to make a living driving a taxi. But that is no reason why innovation shouldn’t reconfigure the ride-for-hire business. Potential riders do not exist to give a living to drivers. Drivers exist to give service to riders.

1 Uber customer with his ride summoning app

use your smartphone Uber “app” to find an Uber car near you. That’s all there is to it.

There is no good reason why Uber and Lyft shouldn’t compete for business in the ride marketplace, any more than Hertz should be able to bar Zipcar.

If I can rent a car, why can’t I rent a ride ? Why should taxi drivers be able to limit my choices this way ?

Uber and Lyft charge far less for long rides than taxis do. Taxi fares are regulated by the department of public Utilities, which uses a cost per minute scale. Uber and Lyft use a cost per distance. More sgnificantly, a rider hails an Uber or Luft car by application on a smartphone. The “app” shows the location of the most nearby available car. Taxis can’t be hailed that way, at least not yet.

Uber, Lyft, and also SideCar have created a new system for city people to get from point a to point B. They’re to be applauded for innovating and thereby better serving poyential customers. That’s how a healthy business marketplave works.

There has been much publicity given to unpleasant ride experiences at Uber, whose business practices have also come to criticism. That’s for the market to work out. If Uber or Lyft alienate or mistreat customers they won’t be in business very long. As for taxis, it;s up to them to recalibrate how their systems operate. Rides for hire atre a service offered to the public. Those who drive riders serve the riders, not the other way around.

Taxi drivers in Cambridge, another city that deals with Ubver and Lyt, oppose ride-summoning businesses altogether. Of course they do. i see no grounds whatsoever for their opposition other than to assert monopoly so that their members can control prices. we don’t allow monopolies in America,. and we shouldn’t sanction this one.

Approve the regulations and let the market then work out what business model — and waht prices — best serves those who seek rides and are ready to pay for them.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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