Lyft Up Our Uber Principles! or Why Is Tulsa’s Government Full of Asshats?

Last week, City Council brought forward a proposal to regulate Ridesharing services (the proposed amendment is here).  Included are fees for registration, insurance coverage requirements, administrative processes, appellant procedures, and agreements to not drive like a bastard.  If you don’t like it, well, you won’t be able to either drive for or avail yourself to the services of a Rideshare service, such as Lyft or Uber unless they play ball like the cab companies.  This ordinance change was introduced during the the August 7 Council Committee meeting.  It has to be on the Regular Thursday (evening) Council agenda for two consecutive weeks before it becomes city law.  What is happening now is the trial balloon, so far, as it’s not been on a Thursday evening agenda.  The move to regulate Rideshare is co-sponsored by councilors G.T. Bynum and Blake Ewing.

What is Rideshare?  Answer: An innovative way for a willing driver to give a ride to a willing passenger at an agreed upon time and location for a price.  This insidious practice involves both parties downloading an app, such as Uber or Lyft and setting a time and location for a pick up.  The app stores the passenger’s preferred payment method and charges a flat fee of $6 plus mileage and time.  The passenger does not give money directly to the driver, while the driver chooses when he or she is available based upon his or her schedule, a win-win.

So, what’s the problem?  Well, it’s cutting into the cab companies’ business, it seems.  From a recent KOTV Channel 6 story, “Tom Moldin of Green Cab Company said the apps are bad for cab companies and wants the city to step in and regulate.” So, according to Mr. Moldin, if someone enters the market and does what you do better than you do it, you should run to government and demand that the government screw them like they screw you. This is the wrong and stupid approach.  What the cab companies should be doing instead is demanding that their regulations go away, too. 

Who else stands to lose if Rideshare is allowed to flourish?  Metropolitan Tulsa Transit Authority, the City/County monetary black hole that features heavlyftily subsidized services that are a nonviable option for someone needing a ride to the grocery store or airport.  Privatizing the City’s mass transit is a discussion for another day, however.

So, what is the direct threat to the City and the citizens of Tulsa from Rideshare?  How is it that much different from having a buddy give you a lift to the store or you giving your buddy a lift to the dry cleaners or you pick up that poor soul who’s having car trouble and drop them at the gas station and then at the end or the ride, someone offers to pay for gas.  The only differences I can see are that 1) the price is determined up front, 2) I may or may not know who’s giving me the ride, and 3) my smartphone is involved.

The proposed ordinance is a bad idea.  It stymies a low start-up entrepreneur and will have the effect of reducing the options available to the person who needs a ride somewhere.  This isn’t about keeping passengers safe, it’s another money grab by the City as it protects a favored industry and restricts our freedom to decide for ourselves what services and risks we will assume.  There is a cost effective way to “protect” people, it’s called the market and the courts.

When we think about liberty, we tend to focus on national issues, however, our local bodies of government can give us as much, if not more, hassle with regard to our personal choices–especially our economic ones.  The good news is that City Hall is only a short drive away and a person can meet with his or her representative (call 918-596-1990).  We can go to the meetings (or watch them online), read the agendas, monitor them, and make sure they aren’t taking something away from us when we’re not looking–all within a few minutes drive from the house.

Finally, the reader may never use Rideshare, or anything similar.  It may not even be an appealing option.  The point, however, is that this local government needs to know when it is overstepping its bounds.  We don’t want them protecting us from ourselves.  We want them to leave us alone.



UPDATE: The next Tulsa City Council meeting regarding this issue will be held Thursday, August 14th at 6pm at 175 E. 2nd St., Tulsa, OK 74103 Room 411, One Technology Center. Please attend and voice your opposition to any restrictions on rideshare services.