Cities Should Embrace UberX Rather Than Trying to Come Up With Reasons It's Illegal

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Aug. 13 2013 2:32 PM

Cities Should Embrace UberX Rather Than Trying to Come Up With Reasons It's Illegal

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Menace 2 Society?

Photo by YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images

It's time for another edition of the Uber Wars, this time as the D.C. Taxi Commission squares off against the launch of UberX service in the district.

The idea of UberX is that instead of getting a giant black luxury sedan to drive you around, a normal sized car like a Toyota Camry hybrid comes and the price is lower than what Uber charges for the black cars. Sounds reasonable. Less lavish service and a lower price point. A good time is had by all. Except that when things involve alternative transportation, it's never that simple. The D.C. Taxi Commission seems to feel that these cars violate some kind of minimum size rule for L Tag registration in the city.

I'll let the lawyers sort out the fine print. The fact is that whether or not using Camry hybrids in this way is currently legal, the city government could easily change the law to ban them or legalize them according to preference. The question to ask is whether there's any public interest in banning the use of Camry hybrids as for-hire cars. The answer is very clearly "no." You obviously wouldn't want people driving unsafe cars on the city streets. But we're not talking about some kind of crazy new invention, we're talking about regular cars that people drive all the time. Letting people drive them as lower-cost for-hire Uber vehicles will make transportation more broadly available in the city, and also give some hard-working people some jobs. What's the problem?

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.