City Desk

New Regulations Could Finally Kill Uber in D.C., Says CEO

To hear Travis Kalanick, the CEO of lightning rod electronic private car dispatch company Uber, tell it, launching Uber in another country is less trouble than doing it in Washington. "It's easier to do business in Paris than it is in D.C." Kalanick says. And it could be getting a little harder. According to Kalanick, new regulations (PDF) proposed by the D.C. Taxicab Commission yesterday could put Uber out of business in the District for good.

The new set of proposed regulations, which will have to go through a 30-day comment period, a hearing, and possible revisions before becoming law, create new rules for the sedan companies with which Uber partners. In an email to members of the D.C. Council today, Kalanick wrote that the "anti-competitive" regulations could eliminate thousands of jobs.

Kalanick singles out regulations that require sedan companies to have at least 20 cars, issue paper receipts, and not carry passengers outside the District. But cab commission head Ron Linton—a frequent target of Uber complaints—says the company has it all wrong.

"They don't what they're talking about," Linton says. "They often don't know what they're talking about."

According to Linton, the regulations would still allow for independent sedan operators with one car, and would only eliminate companies with a handful of cars that he says most frequently try to game the system. Linton says paper receipts will prevent drivers from charging for miles they didn't drive, and the regulations will only prevent sedans from operating in jurisdictions they aren't registered in—i.e., an Uber trip from Maryland to D.C. could be driven by a car from Maryland or D.C., but not from Virginia.

Linton suspects Uber's reaction to the regulations could be inspired by two desires: independence and publicity. "[Kalanick] gets a lot more attention and interest by making a big stink about things," Linton says.

That "big stink" could be back. Kalanick says he has no problem reviving the storm of pro-Uber emails and tweets the Council saw last summer, when Councilmember Mary Cheh proposed a price floor for Uber trips. In a blog post this afternoon, Kalanick asked the company's supporters to tweet about the issue with the hashtag #uberdclove.

"When there's such a clear threat that our business won't be able to exist, then we ultimately have to go down the path of letting our customers know," Kalanick says. Next up in the long-running fight: a Council hearing on Monday about the regulations.

Here's the text of the proposed regulations:

D.C. Proposed Rules for Sedans (Text)

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  • Lobby Rat

    With the power of the taxi and parking lobbies it is a wonder that anything innovative makes it in DC! Oh, right, it rarely does.

    Next time you can't find parking in the "New Adams Morgan", aka Logan Circle you can thank the inept "parking task force" which just keeps kicking the can down the street. Apparently the city is barred from building parking(by the parking lobby no doubt) but will contemplate allowing a private operator to build on tax payer owned land.

    And the taxi lobby? How is it that Jim Graham is not in jail meanwhile two black council members have been busted for chump change compared to Graham's haul over the years.

    Both the parking and the taxi lobbies have had way too much influence for way too long. Of course they have bought EVERYBODY off which is why even David "healthcare industry puppet" won't take them on.

  • Don

    I am not sure in what world saying "no no, you don't have to have 20+ cars - you can have ONLY ONE" seems like a valid response to someone. Our choices are independent operators or large companies, but a driver who scrapes up enough cash for a second vehicle can't create his or her own company? That's whackadoodle.

  • Athan

    Über is a corporation like any other and they need to follow the law. Uber couldn't start a legal cab company? They couldn't buy existing cab companies? This is all about beating the system. Über didn't want to pay for the licenses, for the insurance and to accept the liabilities. This is corporate thuggery at it's best. There's an assumption being made that Über couldn't work from within the law, that somehow innovation or good service is illegal. This is just Über's marketing ploy. The technology they use existed in the taxi industry before there was even an iPhone. As for accountability, check out Über's terms and conditions, They don't even guarantee that their vehicles are licensed and insured. So much for accountability.

  • Erica

    This is BULL. Instead of making it hard for Uber to do business in DC -- and innovate on crappy methods of existing transportation, the Commission should be cleaning up its act. Cabs in DC suck! Cabbies aren't happy and customers dread the cash-only, no-accountability 180 companies located in the district, and plenty of other flaws. Come on! Dear Uber, Just let me know where to send my letter.

  • Fed Up

    Another fine example of how DC "works". Proving once again that DC is the only Third World Republic American citizens can visit without a passport.

    To call this city "World Class" would be correct if the world was limited to Mongolia. And even then I have my doubts.

  • Linda

    Uber needs to follow the regulations of it's desired location. Uber is the business trying to put other sedan services out of business. They use unlicensed drivers and uninsured vehicles and are not legal. They need to be legal to practice business in DC and in any other state.

  • Typical DC BS

    Uber's just like the Occupy movement. They want to pretend the rules don't apply to them because they represent "righteousness" and a "new way of doing things."

  • IMGoph

    this Kalanick guy must be an absolutely insufferable boor in person.

  • Nancy

    I'll take Uber over dc cabs any day of the week. It's almost the same cost for my rides. Difference? Uber responds faster and better. Limo ride a joy. Cab ride - various shades of rattling car hell.