Today is the last day of free Uber rides in Dayton. Tomorrow, the war will maybe begin. Maybe not.
For those of you who don’t know what Uber is- it’s a ride-sharing/part-time taxi service enabled by the mobile Internet. To be a driver you sign up- they run a background check, check insurance and then you become a driver. For the user- you order a ride- and drivers claim your request. You can split the fare between yourself and a friend easily- Uber handles all the financial transactions, and takes a cut. There is no phone number for Uber, you have to have a smart phone and download the app.
If the Uber car is traveling at a speed greater than 11 m.p.h., the price is calculated on the basis of distance. Otherwise, the price is calculated on time. At the end of a ride, the complete fare (which includes gratuity—Uber’s exact wording is “No Need to Tip” and no option to add a tip exists except to offer it by cash) is automatically billed to the customer’s credit card
Riders and drivers are rated in true social media fashion, as sort of a self regulating system. Although the company promises drivers to make $18 an hour- there are questions whether this is truly an independent contractor situation or an employee/employer relationship- at least that’s one of the ways municipalities are attacking the company.
In almost every city Uber enters that has a standing taxi commission, or some sort of regulation, there has been a war. New York City has been going through this for years now- with the licensed cabbies raising hell about the amateur cab drivers. In a city where a “medallion” has gone north of a million bucks (a medallion is a license to operate a cab in NYC)- the idea that anyone with a car and a smartphone can now be a cab is wreaking havoc on the status quo.
Unbeknownst to most, Dayton has a taxi commission, run by the Police Department. There are rules and regulations concerning the operating of cabs in Dayton- which only pertain to the pick up, not drop off of passengers in the city. There is zero regulation anywhere else in the county. A study by the generally right wing “Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions” said:
A review of taxi regulations in Dayton found that the regulations increase the cost of starting a cab company by at least $67,000. Dayton requires 24-hour, seven-days-a-week service from all cab companies. It also requires a 24-hour, seven-day dispatching office. This effectively prohibits an independent owner-operator from starting a cab business.This may explain why there are 100 cabs licensed in Dayton, but only four taxi companies.
A few years ago I started seeing badly lettered mini-vans “Anton’s Transportation” and was wondering what was going on. Turns out that one way you can get around the regulations is to be a “Medical Transportation Company” which bids to transport patients to doctors’ appointments. I’ve also seen others- that say “not for hire” and “designated driver service” – which is an end run around the taxi rules- where renegade cabs can pick up in the city if they are taking donations ($15 minimum suggested).
Anyone who has tried to hail a real cab in this city- especially at 2 a.m. in the Oregon District, knows they are in for a multi-hour wait. In short- cab service in Dayton is almost as big a joke as our parks and recreation department that can’t keep the basketball courts mowed.
Renegade cabbies risk being charged a $450 fine for being caught operating a taxi in the city. And note, the airport is considered city property- where only “approved cabs” can sit in a cab stand waiting for the odd ride. (Our airport also has funky rules about where off airport parking vans can pick up and drop off passengers- even though they pay a hefty 10% levy on all their customers for the right to drive onto airport property).
There is no proof that regulating cab companies improves the marketplace, the safety, or the availability of cabs in Dayton- in fact, the existence of the taxi commission is just another one of the obsolete rules left over from when Dayton was the driving engine of the region. Now, it just makes doing business in Dayton more difficult.
Considering the constant talk of creating jobs- you would think that an on-demand cab service would be a worthy addition to our local economy, but, just wait until Dayton tries to flex its flabby muscles and tickets the first Uber driver and see what starts to happen.