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Cab companies push back on Uber/Lyft

The first Council action on updating the taxi and limo codes to accommodate Uber and Lyft went about as you’d expect.

Houston City Council members struggled Tuesday to strike a balance between ensuring paid rides in Houston are available to everyone and encouraging competition from new firms that say they can provide faster service.

Speakers at a joint meeting of two council committees considering changes in taxi regulations said the business models of the new companies, Uber and Lyft, could complicate a system important not just to established businesses, but to city residents dependent on cabs.

“This needs to be broader than who makes a dollar off of it,” said Tomaro Bell, president of the Super Neighborhood Alliance.

Lyft and Uber use non-professional drivers behind the wheels of their personal vehicles. Taxi industry leaders complained that the new companies would not face the same requirements as established ones, such as serving disabled passengers and providing service all over Houston.

“They don’t want the difficult part. They want the easy part,” said George Tompkins, who owns a company with five taxi medallions in Houston. “They want the fruit but they don’t want the vine.”

[…]

Council members also blasted the online companies for jumping into the market without approval after months of discussions. The companies’ hasty action complicated the council discussion, said Christopher Newport, chief of staff for the city’s regulatory affairs department.

“There is an implication you are having a conversation under duress,” he said.

Uber and Lyft faced similar concerns when they started service in Seattle, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

The online companies’ ultimate effect on Houston taxi service is difficult to predict, Newport said. Data from other cities doesn’t point to an obvious outcome in Houston.

Taxi companies complained about the potential loss of business before Houston revised its cab laws to cover jitney service that circulates in high-traffic areas. When the city eventually allowed jitneys in certain circumstances, though, their entrance didn’t significantly harm taxi companies.

The shorter chron.com story has a bit more information. I am not surprised that the claim-jumping entries by Lyft and UberX caused some fuss on Council, but in the end I don’t think it will matter. I refer you back to the demand study on taxi service in Houston, which points pretty clearly to Council taking action of some kind to open the market. The Chron sure wants it to happen. I think it will, and I think the market for paid rides is not zero sum; I think it will expand to accommodate the newcomers, though I’m sure there will be some pain for the legacy cab companies. In the end, I believe we will be better off.

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2 Comments

  1. joshua bullard says:

    joshua bullard vs uber and lyft

    For over 30 years in houston when ever there was a natural disaster ,be it hurricaine allisha in the eighties, or hurricaine ike,the city and its people relied entirely on independent taxi companies to pull the city threw , in the hardest of times,and every time the cab industry has been there for the greater good of all of houston,when the economy tanked nation wide and other cab companys packed and left their home city,the taxi’s in houston rode out the worst of times and never faultered when the city needed them most,

    why would the city of houston allow an individual to sale food unregulated to anyone,they dont,when you talk of the taxi industry in houston,your talking about a proven system of safety both for the riders and the drivers,however with uber and lyft its just risky unregulated unsafe distribution for revenue of transportation ( have you asked yourself why lyft tries to entice citys by screaming “weve got one million in some type of insurance”=man i was born at night but not last night,if it takes a million dollars then that on its face may imply that the company plans to incur liabilities,on the expense of citizen safety,then you look at the districts,council member district c, ellen cohen hasnt recieved a single request from one citizen asking for the introduction of lyft or uber=not one=as a matter of fact to date,not a single request by even one citizen has been made to any city official including mayor parker,the city brings in a tremendous amount of money to our city from other countries because of the taxi industry=that money=all of that money- gets poured in to the local city of houston economy,it doesnt matter the price,as a unit of people in the city of houston we rely on the local houston city council to generate bussiness for transportation-in the city of houston=not outside the city of houston=the facts are this,the city goverment should stand tall and proud for its cab drivers since theyve been here for the city of houston in the toughest of times=the correct answer to uber, stuber, side bar, lets ride , share car , jump start, or lyft game, or ride cheap, or lets, roll is =thanks, but no thanks,in houston we keep it classic,we take cabs………………………………

    joshua ben bullard

  2. Robert says:

    Joshua,

    You don’t know what you’re talking about…. as usual.

    I’ve been to many cities where Uber operates…. it is well run, I prefer it to dirty, nasty, greedy taxi services.

    One thing I’ve come to dislike about travel (been to over 60 countries and 40+ states) is dishonest overpriced taxi’s.

    I hope the city of Houston catches up with 2014 and moves on with passing whatever they need to pass to end this monopoly.

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