D.C. Gets All Up in Uber's Business

D.C.'s council is stonewalling a rideshare service that offers a better product at a better price.

In this April 3, 2014 photo, a smartphone is mounted on the glass of an Uber car in Mumbai, India. Riding on its startup success and flush with fresh capital, taxi-hailing smartphone app Uber is making a big push into Asia. The company has in the last year started operating in 18 cities in Asia and the South Pacific including Seoul, Shanghai, Bangkok, Hong Kong and five Indian cities.

D.C. would prefer your ridesharing company be less convenient.

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Buried in a story about the thousands of cash-strapped Washington-area residents who have found a way to make a living (or at least some extra spending money) ferrying customers by car from place to place through rideshare services like Uber X is the latest example of government doing its utmost to make things harder for everyone. As the Washington Post reports:

City officials and traditional taxi companies are scrambling to respond to the upstarts. The D.C. Taxicab Commission on Wednesday took up proposed new restrictions on ride-share drivers … Proposals under consideration by the D.C. Council with the most support would leave the driving hours alone but mandate higher insurance requirements, background checks, and zero-tolerance drug and alcohol standards.

Stated otherwise, the government’s answer to learning that government regulations have put an entire class of local businesses at a competitive disadvantage is to create more government regulations to put more local businesses at a disadvantage, too.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

This is clearly the right decision, because the only thing the new, unregulated ride-share companies have done is provide consumers with more choices while giving low-income Washingtonians a safe, convenient way to take control over the hours they work and still earn a good wage. The Post article details how a diverse array of people, including a previously unemployed single mom and an accounting student looking for something he could do while in school, have benefitted from becoming drivers.

The only real complaint is that by offering a better service at a lower price, Uber X and the like have begun to siphon business from traditional taxi companies. And we can’t be having that.