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I came across a thought-provoking commentary this week on the volatile topic of Uber and TNC regulation, and the quest for fairness with taxis and limos.
This opinion article points to a possible solution, or compromise, among the drastic all-or-nothing scenarios we've seen: Hit TNCs with all the regulations of taxis and limos even if some of those rules are unreasonable; OR carve out a niche for TNCs that allows them to avoid or diminish compliance; OR just ban all the app-based for-hire ride services.
For the record, my position has been safety first and equal regulations, with legislators and bureaucrats figuring out the actual level of regulation with influence from limousine industry interests.
Before TNCs came along in 2010, I recall numerous conversations with operators about the collective burden of over-regulation. That was the primary legislative and political industry fight for the National Limousine Association and numerous state and local associations. With the advent of Uber, the need to survive and push for equality ascended to the forefront, even if it meant holding on to tough or nuisance regulations so they could be applied to TNCs in the name of fairness.
That's certainly an understandable position. America is based on equality of opportunity, and whenever a person or entity operates above the rules, the injustice hits a chord of shared outrage among us.
But what if there was a third way? A policy that would equally liberate taxis, limos and TNCs from silly or burdensome rules, like the ones outlined in the article, but keep the sensible rules. Those common sense rules would include equal licensing fees/registration; same high-quality FBI-certified background checks for all chauffeurs and drivers; an equal minimal insurance coverage baseline; and uniform vehicle safety inspections at chosen intervals. For limos, taxis and TNCs.
Then there's the wild card of word-of-mouth, or viral digital information available on social media, on comment boards, via Yelp reviews, etc. Such real-time feedback provides a stronger incentive for an operator or any business to maintain quality and top performance than the fear of a bureaucrat or inspector showing up at the door. Angry customers will always rat you out and they now have mutliple platforms. Gone are the days of scrawling off a letter to the local BBB.
"It's likely that the simple-yet-powerful discipline instilled by genuine competition and easily accessible customer reviews would outmatch even New York's 350-page taxi manual," the article states. ". . . .Leaders in Florida have shown that there's another option: Embrace progress by removing needless [my emphasis] rules for all transportation service companies."
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