Bill Evans

^ Boston Police Commissioner Bill Evans testifies — for tough ride share legislation — at yesterday’s ride-share legislation hearing

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We whole-heartedly support ride-sharing, as a concept and as a business. In case you haven’t been living in the real world these past two or three years, ride-sharing businesses have now become the ride hire of choice for a growing number of city denizens. One accesses ride sharing via smartphone applications, Uber and Lyft being the best known. Ride sharing costs less than standard taxi fares and is far easier to call upon. No need to stand on a busy sidewalk, outstretch your arm and yell “taxi !” in hopes — often vain — that such taxi will be empty and will stop. You simply call the ride share firm by phone application, make request, and — voila !

Standard taxi operations are not taking this transport revolution well. Instead of adapting to the new paradigm, they are protesting it. That’s highly unlikely to work.

Ride-sharing does present difficulties, as does any new methodology. Uber and Lyft users want to know that the driver who picks them up is not a criminal or a weirdo. Ride share vehicles must carry significant insurance. The vehicles have to be inspected, just as do any vehicle registered upon Massachusetts roads. Horror stories have arisen about ride share pricing : in busy times, so the anecdotes have it, ride prices explode upward — so-called “surge pricing.” If true, .the state ought to curb the practice. (see our argument below.)

In April, Governor Baker filed detailed legislation to regulate ride share firms. You can access the proposal here

State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry and State Represented Mike Moran have submitted a much more onerous regulation bill. You can read its provisions and the legislators’ arguments here :

Which bill do we support ? Probably a bit of both.

We support the Forry-Moran bill’s call to have ride share drivers background checked under the same regulations now imposed on taxi livery, and train operators. It seems needlessly complex to write two separate background regulations into law.

However, we support the Baker bill in most other aspects. The Forry-Moran bill calls for ride share vehicles to be accessible to disabled people. This is an admirable goal; but imposing it on every private vehicle used for ride shares — and almost all ride share vehicles are private — would eliminate almost every vehicle now used for ride shares. Baker’s bill also addresses the issue of surge pricing : ride share prices will, under his legislation, be overseen by the DPU. Ride share firms say that surge pricing induces more people to offer ride shares in peak traffic times, so that those calling for rides don’t have to wait long. I don’t see it. Retailers hold sales, but they don’t do rush-time price hikes. It’s enough that peak usage hours offer more customers and thus more fares for Uber and Lyft drivers.

As for the insurance requirement of both the Baker and Forry-Moarn proposals, I agree that requiring individual drivers to buy $ 1,000,000 of commercial-price insurance is a deal breaker. What individual driver can afford $ 10,000 for insurance ? Requiring it will restrict ride share drivers to only the well off. In my opinion, insurance for ride share drivers should be carried, as a blanket policy, by the companies for which ride share drivers drive. After all, the companies have almost no other costs except for technology administration, marketing, and server fees. They’re cash cows.

As for the standard taxi industry, it probably has to reconfigure and become, in effect, itself a ride share business. Otherwise it will be as gone in a few years as the horse and buggy by 1940. I read that some taxi drivers are now choosing to be Uber or Lyft drivers instead. I can’t blame them, and why shouldn’t they ? The system, of day leasing cabs from medallion owners, with all of the abuse and manipulation that seems to accompany it, cannot go on, and should not go on. If that means that medallions, for which big money was paid before, now become almost worthless, so be it. The market rules its own.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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