Thursday, June 12, 2014

What the Uber Protests Really Reveal

By Wendy Bidwell

On Sunday evening, our neighbor was telling us about his experiences using Uber in Boston. Then again, for Frontiers for Freedom's annual Reagan Gala in Washington, D.C. last night, we took Uber from the train station to the event. There is no doubt Uber is the talk of the town...
For any of you who might not know, Uber is a service that lets people use their smartphones to locate a driver nearby and arrange a pick up. You can tab a button and get picked up within moments. The application is on your smartphone, the payment process is seamless with your credit card stored and billed for the ride. Uber is a ridesharing service where people provide rides for other people for a fee. Ultimately Uber is an example of technology doing what taxicab companies used to do, only better. It is a prime example of what we can expect to continue to happen in industries across the world over the next decade.
It shouldn't surprise you that Uber is under fire. It is about to

displace an industry that didn't stay up to date and often doesn't provide a good service. Just think about the number of dirty cabs or rude drivers you've encountered…
But many are making the argument that Uber isn't playing on a level playing field. They say Uber doesn't provide traditional liability coverage and is getting around consumer protection standards, standard licensing, etc. For the most part, though, taxi drivers / companies think the government isn't protecting their interests. For instance, a taxi driver wrote an article for the Guardian that says, "The issue is that the taxi trade feels its regulator, Transport for London (TfL), is not looking out for our interests or enforcing its own regulations as it should."
Taxi drivers are protesting all over the world in various ways. According to The Wall Street Journal's Thousands of Taxi Drivers Protest Uber Across Europe, London's taxi cab drivers protested by using their cars to block off the streets near Trafalgar Square. Transportation for London said somewhere between four thousand and five thousand drivers protested, but organizers said it was closer to twelve thousand. Right before the protest, an individual did a test: Road-testing the taxis: Uber was cheaper and quicker than a black cab. It's clear Uber provides a better service.

Meanwhile back in the U.S., taxi drivers are trying to form a union in Chicago. The New York Times recently published an article saying...
Eager to reverse the trend, taxi drivers in Chicago and other cities are for the first time seeking to form a national taxi drivers' union — not just to gain leverage against UberX but also to pressure city officials and taxi companies to heed their concerns. The powerful taxi drivers' union in New York City, with 17,000 members, is spearheading this effort, bringing its organizing expertise to Chicago, where it is pushing to unionize thousands of drivers and to link up with drivers' unions in Philadelphia, Miami, Houston, northern Maryland and Austin, Tex. 
I expect cab companies to look to the government to save them. I expect them to try to buy off lawmakers. Through, Uber essentially found a way to cut costs and deliver a better service. In time we will know Uber's fate. I'm convinced Uber and others will replace the taxi cab companies the same way Netflix replaced Blockbuster Video, by and large. Only time will tell...

Wendy Bidwell is Executive Director of The Project to Restore America. The above originally appeared  The Project to Restore America. You an sign up for their free newsletter, here.


  1. Innovation vs public safety? Of course, public safety. Taxi drivers are fingerprinted by police department. Uber drives are NOT. I think you report the truth and stay neutral not advertise for Uber!!!

    1. I always laugh when I hear idiots like this one claim that we have a choice between innovation OR public safety, as if the Great God Government is always there protecting us little children. LOL! Just another moron with a below 40IQ.


  2. Innovation vs public safety? Of course public safety. Uberx, uberxl, lyft and Sidecar even the police do not know who they are. Do not ride with strangers! As a reporter you should report the whole truth and stay neutral, not advertise for Uber!?!?

    1. I'll take my chances with the free market over your cronyism. Nice try, bud.

    2. @

      The police only show up after something has happened. Their only mission is to arrest people or bring the yellow tape. They always arrive after the fact. In those rare occasions where there is violence going on when they do arrive, they wait it out and then move in- see the school shootings as an example. When you really need a cop to defend you or protect at some moment in time, they are never there. After all, who but the economic ignorant still puts their faith in monopolies?

  3. To imadriver
    Why cant taxi drivers keep up with innovative technology to improve customer service and value? As the 900 lb gorilla in the room, you are scaring yr customers away and inconveniencing them when you should be adding value to your existing services to compete with the competitors you so deride.
    You could keep and expand yr customer base by understanding what uber offers to people and MATCH their services which are already obviously valued by many customers.
    That's your option at this point. Compete or lose your government enforced monopoly. Period.

  4. Whatever this is, it isn't exactly the free market. Gypsy cabs have been around as long as government franchised taxi cabs offering competitive services and prices. But it is a risky business since Gypsy cabs are illegal and subject to fines and arrest if caught. Uber looks like Gypsy cabs with an iphone. So why are they being tolerated by government regulatory agencies? I am not sure but I would follow the money for an answer. Until government is completely removed from transportation there can be no free market in transportation. However, Uber's struggles are certainly an interesting story.

  5. "Uber looks like Gypsy cabs with an iphone. So why are they being tolerated by government regulatory agencies?"

    Because people with iphones vote and have a huge media presence. Nobody cares about the gypsy cabs. Start going after something that has to do with technology and young people get pissed off at you.

    1. I've taken a few gypsy cabs, if it was raining and it cost 3 times as much, it was worth it NOT to stand in the rain waiting for an "official" taxi that's empty. Uber fills that niche, no government required. Liability laws, public information about the driver and passenger, "prejudice", caution, fun and flexibility make it far superior than the taxi system.

      Uber has DEEP pockets, and can tie this up in the courts for years, long enough to strangle the Taxi commissions in NYC to LA.

      The government will gnash and wail and retaliate, but they will lose. It's too viral now. The millions of urbanites that have used the system have been impressed, and the government coming after THEM, young liberals who think the government should control almost everything. It's like the people on this site- - who are young, hip, left liberals for the most part, but have been scathing in their attacks on the FDA for telling cheesemongers they can no longer use the boards they have been using for HUNDREDS OF YEARS because they might have bacteria. Uh, does the bitch not know how cheese is MADE!?!

      When you point out that libertarians are decades ahead of them, they get pissy.

      R Dale Fitzgerald

  6. "Because people with iphones vote and have a huge media presence. Nobody cares about the gypsy cabs. Start going after something that has to do with technology and young people get pissed off at you."

    Maybe. Bidwell suggests the cab drivers will try to "buy off legislators.." I suspect that Uber has greased more than a few palms and the best we are likely to end up with is a high tech monopoly. That is not a free market solution.