I Have a Car, You Need a Ride

I Have a Car, You Need a Ride

Stephen Dethrage — AL.com »

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama – The on-going strife between the city of Tuscaloosa and the app-based ride-sharing service Uber may come to a head this week after city officials said they’d begin Wednesday to arrest Uber drivers operating there. 

Billy Guernier, the general manager for Uber Tuscaloosa, said more than a dozen city employees met with an Uber policy specialist Friday and drew a clear line in the sand, promising begin on Wednesday to arrest any Uber driver in the city and charge them with violating city codes that govern taxi services in Tuscaloosa.

Oh yeah, this is the type of thing you would expect in a free society.

Guernier said the ultimatum comes after a month of failing negotiations between the two parties. He said he personally flew to Tuscaloosa to meet its mayor Walt Maddox last month, but the meeting never materialized. Guernier said Sunday morning that Uber has come to the table willing to compromise and ready to cooperate with the city, but has been met with continued resistance and a ‘my way or the highway’ attitude from city officials. 

In their defense, city employees said it’s Uber that is unwilling to compromise even after it was made clear that the city was willing to be flexible to make Uber work in the Druid City.

I don’t even understand what compromise would look like. Where does this end? I have a car, my friend needs a ride to the airport. Do I need to have background checks and a commercial taxi license? This is complete and utter non-sense. Well, any regulations on any services is non-sense to begin with, and maybe that’s the problem.

This is, by the way, not a failure of capitalism or free market. It is in fact a failure of our current society here in the U.S. to recognize the ridiculousness of some of these regulations and to adapt to changing economic conditions and innovations. Uber is an amazing service and an amazing idea. It saves money, takes advantage of modern technologies, and provides a service people want. And here’s the thing — make no mistake — people are using this and people want it.

Last night, me and several friends at a conference near Washington, D.C. used the Uber app to get a ride downtown for food and drinks and to have some fun. It was cheap and worked great. We received better service and rates than we would have from a cab. The man driving was happy because he made some money, and we were happy because we were in D.C. without our own car and needed to get from point A to point B. This is basic, free market capitalism 101. The fact that this is even happening — that Uber is even under threat anywhere for any reason, is a painful reminder that we are not in fact in a free market capitalist society.

It’s also a good reminder that the regulation that has been set up around transportation services lends itself to propping up old business models that need to naturally die out or evolve. When you allow the free market to work, all this is taken care of.