In Washington last summer, it was a very close call. The entrenched interests were desperate to kill Uber. The customers -- a.k.a. local voters -- loved it and successfully got the company a reprieve until the end of the year. In 2013, champions of the old way on the D.C. council will take another stab at it, in both senses of the word. And the council will have new ammo on its side. The International Association of Transportation Regulators (who among us doesn't love their work?) met in Washington last month to formulate ways to restore the status quo ante.
Matthew W. Daus, former head of the N.Y. taxi commission, is the president of IATR, and he talks about Uber the way Iranian censors talk about satellite dishes. It's a dangerous "rogue" app, Daus claims.
These big-city regulators nationwide proposed guidelines that have nothing to do with making things better for consumers. IATR wants to ban using GPS devices as a meter to determine fares. Why? Because that's how Uber does it. Another proposed rule would ban receiving a hail over a smartphone while driving. My favorite proposal would simply ban luxury sedan drivers from taking a job that was requested less than 30 minutes ago.
This is like banning a pizza company from promising to deliver in 30 minutes or less because that would be unfair to the established pizza shops that can't manage to deliver hot pizza.
Of course, one frustration I have is that Uber's core customers are precisely the sort of affluent and hip urbanites who routinely vote to empower regulators to meddle in more important parts of our lives -- in health care, manufacturing, etc. And while the thought of them getting what they deserve has its appeal, I'd rather Uber survive and its customers learn from its example. That would be a lesson worth its weight in medallions.