Uber Über Alles?
At DCist, Benjamin R. Freed has a good rundown on this morning's sting on a Virginia limo driver who has a contract with Uber, the new car-booking service that connects riders with drivers. Ron Linton, the D.C. Taxicab Commission says Uber's acting illegally, and used the service to book a limousine; once he arrived at the Mayflower, where he had agents waiting, he ordered the car impounded and the driver fined for two violations. One, Virginia drivers can't pick up passengers in D.C. unless they're taking them to Virginia, and two, limos are supposed to charge a fare set in advance—not a fee based on distance traveled.
We admit there's something rather thuggish in Linton's tactics. Instead of dealing directly with the company, he's chosen to go after an individual driver, possibly scaring others of that ilk from working with Uber.
But the Twitter outrage from über-Uber fans seems to miss the point a bit. It's looking like the firm started operating in the city without working with the Taxi Commission in advance to be sure of what the laws are (officials say they spoke to the commission, but Linton says he didn't talk to them). The campaign Uber has organized using the #UberDCLove hashtag appears to be urging that the city just leave the service alone. But as Mike Debonis writes, this is an opportunity for them to push to change the city's current taxi cab regulatory regime—which, it should be noted, protects really terrible cab service—not seek to be ignored by it.
In a perfect world, a service like Uber would be a boon for people who have trouble catching cabs in the city—black men, anyone going to Anacostia—but its biggest inroads are with wealthy early adopter types who love their smartphones, are willing to pay $25 for a cab ride, and will fire off an angry tweet about D.C. policy without much thought. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but having Uber's cause being taken up by people who care mostly about their own comfort could further divide a city that wants the same things: Reliable cab service to where they want to go, and a few basic amenities like credit card readers.
Photo by Matt Dunn