The City of Seattle is in the process of deciding whether or not to eliminate ride-sharing services such as Über, Lyft and Sidecar.
Is that a good thing?
If you've ever watched Portlandia, you have an idea of what it's like to live 200 miles north. Seattle is very open and progressive, but at the same time it feels the need to regulate almost everything. Our City Council can get bogged down on inane issues, such as spitting in public parks.
However, when communication delivery shifted from print to the web, would it have made sense for the Seattle City Council to regulate online information sources in order to keep local printers in business? Of course not.
Which brings us back to getting around town.
The taxi industry is in revolt over the unfairness of competing with ride-sharing enterprises. Taxis are subjected to layers of regulation, where ride-sharing entities are not. It makes sense to analyze the different requirements for ride sharing and taxis, and do what is reasonable to level the playing field.
But another part of the equation is that the taxi industry hasn't adapted to change. It's difficult to compete with Über, which lives on smartphones, and for a reasonable cost, provides instant communication, safety, and timely responses to its customers.
Instead of discouraging new, faster and cheaper ways to get around, shouldn't Seattle be looking at ways to improve options for consumers, cultivate employment, and identify ways to bolster local government through the taxes it collects?
Seattle is a welcoming environment for people of all stripes. It is an incubator of innovation. Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Costco and many other trailblazing companies began here. And some have crushed, or at least dented, their competitors.
I think ride-sharing services should be allowed to operate. Having said that, I'd like to add they should be subject to oversight, be licensed, insured, and pay taxes.
To survive, a business needs to be nimble. It may be time for taxi companies to evaluate their business models to compete with ride sharing. It could be a win-win for all.
Do you have ride sharing in your city? What do you think?
To see Conan and the stars of "Ride Along" use "Lyft," click the link below:
Above: Robert Deniro in Taxi Driver via Columbia Pictures Corporation