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Uber writes to the city about its taxi demand study

You can see the letter here. They make two basic points: One, the $70 minimum fare for private car trips “serves neither the driver community nor the riding public, and should be eliminated as a matter of public interest regardless of any study”. I agree that this is an excessive level and that it doesn’t need to wait on the outcome of a study on demand for taxi services to be taken up by Council. Two, they charge that the firm conducting the study is a “paid advocate for the taxi industry”, and they call the impartiality of the lead consultant doing the study in question. Read the whole thing and see what you think.

As I’ve written before, I think Uber makes a strong case for changing the city’s taxi ordinances to allow it and its app entry into the market. Since that was published, I have been contacted by one of the people representing the local cab companies, and we are making arrangements to get together so I and perhaps some of my blogging colleagues can learn their perspective. My inclination in these matters is to lean in the direction of whatever makes things better for consumers – see, for example, the saga of Texas’ microbreweries and the effect of consumer choice it had – so I will be very interested to hear what they have to say.

UPDATE: I received the following from Christopher Newport, the Council Liaison and Public Information Officer for the Department of Administrative and Regulatory Affairs:

I appreciate the tone of Uber’s most recent missive, however Mr. Owen’s letter and his subsequent commentary on the City’s study rests on a pretty important assumption: the scope of the study currently underway is limited to taxicabs.

While it is true that the scope of the work being conducted by a contractor we have engaged is limited to taxicabs, that is not the scope of the study we (ARA/City) are conducting.

With respect to the taxicab study, the primary responsibility of the contractor is to collect and analyze data that we do not currently have. I think it is to the City’s benefit that the taxicab industry is being solicited by someone they might be comfortable with; that only increases the probability that we will get a sufficient quantity of high quality information. I have not heard Uber state, yet, that they don’t believe the City is capable of independent analysis of raw data.

The set of aspects of this industry being examined currently is comprehensive in nature. Any revisions to taxicab regulations can potentially have feedback effects on the other categories of vehicles for hire. Furthermore, the vehicle for hire app “universe” is larger than Uber (see Sidecar, Lyft, Taxi Magic, MyTaxi). We have to look at the entire picture. Well, we don’t have to I guess, but it would not be very bright to not take a comprehensive view.

Hope that helps clarify things. My thanks to Christopher Newport for the feedback.

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  1. joshua ben bullard says:

    the biggest misconception with the transportation industry is that it would operate just great if there was no goverment regulations involved=this is false, to date no major city operates free from local goverment control,heres why,because at 12.30 am in the morning on a work day, the lady that worked over time and has to get home to her family,cannot be standing downtown houston after midnight, trying to sort out an agreeable rate with a driver,can you imagine how much a driver would charge you if he knew that you had to get home,it was after midnight and he was the only game in town-at that time-and you were either going to pay his free market price or you were going to be sleeping in the bushes for the evening=the point is=the local goverment regulates the rates=on transportation=any transportation,the local goverment protects the consumer,if not their wouldnt be anyone else to do it-and sure the lady working overtime doesnt have to pay ubers price and she wont have to worry about sleeping in the bushes for the evening because charles kuffner knows “she can simply call a taxi “which rates are regulated=so uber says they dont want to be regulated, but what their not saying is dont regulate the taxis,so they want a double=diffrent-standard,and thats just not fair to the taxis,its unfair to the consumer and its unjust goverment.if your not coming into a market saying=no transportation should be regulted.instead you come into houston saying we should be the exception,thats un fair.

    joshua ben bullard

  2. Ross says:

    Joshua, the taxi ordinances protect the taxi companies by artificially restricting the supply of taxis. That is the single reason for the laws. Consumer protection is an afterthought tossed in to appease the masses.

  3. joshua ben bullard says:

    ross,i have no idea what in gods name your on, but i want some……ben bullard joshua