Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tyranny, Taxi Medallions and the Train of Disruption

Technology strikes again as a power for democratization. A reminder that governments rarely let go over power easily - particularly given entrenched interests and what we'll call regulatory capture (Pricenomics via HN):

A number of mobile phone apps, however, are replacing taxi dispatch services and allowing anyone with a car to become a taxi driver without needing access to a medallion. Increasingly, if you want to become a taxi driver, all you need is a car and an app that tells you where to pick up passengers. [...]

The ride-sharing economy started conservatively with Uber allowing anyone to call a black town car via its app. That quickly led to companies like Sidecar and Lyft, that let anyone with a car act as a taxi driver and hybrid services like InstantCab that lets taxi drivers and community drivers both get fares. These companies and their products are called “ride-sharing” apps.

Cheekily, if you hail a ride using one of these ride-sharing apps, the payment is called a “donation.” This sort of seems like a made up legal loophole that can justify any behavior (“Officer I wasn’t paying for sex, I was making a donation!”). But for now that’s one of the ways ride-sharing apps nominally get around local regulations that restrict who can be a taxi.
It's a good article and one that can't help but make you a bit mad if you aren't one of the few who own taxi medallions. Read the whole thing.

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