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If Ridesharing Is Banned, What About Ride-Trading? 353

Posted by samzenpus
from the hop-on dept.
Bennett Haselton writes "The city of Seattle just imposed new limits on commercial app-based ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft, effectively protecting taxi companies from low-cost competition in the form of smartphone apps. If other cities follow suit, could a company help ridesharers circumvent the restrictions by creating a ride-trading app, allowing drivers to earn 'miles' by driving passengers, and redeem those miles later to get rides for themselves?" Continue reading below to see what Bennett has to say.

The cab companies got Seattle to crack down on ridesharing companies by arguing that by letting drivers charge money for rides, they were essentially operating illegal unlicensed taxi services. So it's not hard to imagine other cities taking similar action on the same ambiguous legal grounds, as Los Angeles did in sending cease-and-desist notices to Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, ordering them to stop operating entirely.

I tried some of these services and actually never saw what the big deal was. Much of the time, they were almost as expensive as taxis, much too pricey to use on a regular basis, and I would never use them unless my own poor planning left me somewhere without my own car and desperate somewhere faster than public transit could take me. Perhaps cab companies were afraid of where the services were eventually headed -- especially towards a model where drivers could set their own prices. As far as I know, currently all ridesharing services set a minimum price per mile and don't let drivers set their rate any lower. But many drivers would probably be willing to drive at a price lower than what the app allows, and a set-your-own-price model probably really would put the cab companies out of business.

Perhaps some cities will take a more benign view of ridesharing in the long run, but as long as money is changing hands, (1) the city will certainly view it as within their rights to regulate the ridesharing industry, and (2) taxi companies will be able to argue, not unreasonably, that the companies are effectively running unlicensed taxi services. Of course the real solution would be for cities to stop limiting the supply of taxi medallions and artificially enriching cab companies at everyone else's expense (if the city's concern is with rider "safety", they could increase the number of taxi medallions while still requiring all drivers to take safety training). But that doesn't seem likely to happen any time soon. So instead, what if a company created an app that attempted to circumvent the legal restrictions, by allowing users to trade rides -- not for cash, but for returning the favor?

Here's how it could work: When you sign up as a new user, you have a "miles" balance of zero. (The very first users of the system would have to start out with a nonzero balance, so that there are some units in the system to trade, but everyone who joins after that starts at zero.) You have to earn miles by giving someone else a ride before you can redeem your miles by getting a ride yourself. So you log in as a driver, and some other user "hails" you through their smartphone app, much as riders hail drivers through Uber or Lyft. You pick up a passenger and give them a ride to their destination, and at the end of the journey, they transfer a number of "miles" to you indicating how far you drove them. You now have a positive miles balance, and you can "spend" it by hailing a ride yourself later on. Drivers and riders could leave ratings for each other just as they do on Uber and Lyft. What Couchsurfing is to Airbnb, this service would be to Uber.

Since no money is changing hands, the arrangements would presumably not be covered by existing taxi statutes. You could even make an argument that a city couldn't pass a law regulating these ride-trades even if they wanted to, because as voluntary arrangements between consenting parties, they're protected under our First Amendment right of freedom of association! Of course, libertarians believe all commercial transactions between consenting parties ought to be exempt from regulation as well, but most state and local governments take a dim view of that premise. However, take money out of the equation, and you're on much stronger ground that your ride-trading arrangements aren't covered by existing laws.

(It is of course silly and inconsistent that the law often forbids selling something for money, but allows trading it for something of "value", or permits it if the nature of the trade is not made explicitly clear. If a girl sleeps with you and you occasionally "lend" her money, she's a high-maintenance girlfriend, but if she ever does you the courtesy of spelling out the arrangement explicitly, she's a prostitute and can go to jail. But as long as the government makes those silly and arbitrary distinctions, we might as well use them when they count in our favor.)

Would ride-trading with strangers be safe? Well, when a rider pages a driver, the system could tell the rider the license plate of the car associated with that driver's profile, so unless the driver was in a stolen car, the system would always have a record of the license plate (and, hence, the owner) of any car that picked up a passenger. More generally, if I were a user in a system like this and someone told me it sounded unsafe, I would just say the same thing I always say about Couchsurfing (where I've hosted over 50 people with no bad experiences). Namely: "Look, have you or any of your friends ever gone home with someone you met at a bar? And that's fine, I'm not judging you, I'm just saying that was a hell of a lot more risky than meeting up with someone in a system where you can read other people's references." Besides, in many cities there's already thriving subculture of slugging -- picking up total strangers so you can use the carpool lane and they get a free ride.

I feel like I would be happy to have this ride-trading service available if I ever wanted a quick ride across town and didn't have my car. The only "cost" to me would be the cost of giving someone an equal-length ride at some other point in time when I wasn't in a hurry. (Or even giving someone a lift to a place that I was already going.) It's an efficient transaction because it lets me spend miles when my time is valuable, and then rack up the miles later on when I have some time to kill that's not as valuable. You can realize even more efficiencies by letting people pay "premium rates" for periods when demand is high (Friday and Saturday nights) or supply is low (early mornings when people need rides to the airport), so that the balance of miles that you pay for a ride may be greater than the actual number of miles traveled.

On the other hand, there's an inefficiency in that the system cannot serve the needs of people who want a ride, but whose time is too valuable to spend it driving in order to "earn" the miles to redeem for the ride. This is a limitation in any system that bans money as a means of trade and only lets you trade a service for a repayment-in-kind of the same service.

To environmentalists who would object that this promotes greater car usage: First of all, it might result in more impromptu car pooling over routes that were being inadequately served by buses, in which case the passengers were going to have to take cars anyway, so they might as well be piled into fewer of them. But in any case, I would actually take the bus more if a service like this existed. I live in Bellevue, about a 20-minute bus ride outside of Seattle, and I'd gladly take the bus in to Seattle if I was going to a specific destination close to the bus line, and knew I was coming right back afterwards. The problem is that once I'm in Seattle, if I want to get to some other arbitrary destination in Seattle, taking public transit is slow and annoying (and, you may have heard, often involves some waiting around in the rain). I drive my car in to Seattle not because I want to drive to the city, but in order to have a car while I'm there. If I could summon a ride in under two minutes to take me anywhere else in the city (with the only price being to return the favor to someone else later), I wouldn't need my car and could take the bus downtown.

So, even assuming a service like this would be useful, why would a company create it? We know how Airbnb and Uber make money, by skimming a cut off of each transaction. But how would a company make money just by connecting riders and drivers for complimentary rides through a free app? Well, Couchsurfing connects users for free stays in each other's houses, and they got venture capitalists to invest $22 million. The thinking seems to be that if even a free a service has enough users, it must be worth something.

The major obstacle to deploying the system, is that the system would require a critical mass of users in any given city, before it could become effective. If there aren't enough drivers active in the city, then hailing a ride would take so long that after factoring in the delay, you might as well have taken the bus. You'd need enough drivers active to be reasonably sure that in any given neighborhood, you can catch a ride quickly -- and for the drivers have to be out in force, they have to know that there's a critical mass of riders who are ready to offer some miles in their balance for rides. Services that require a critical mass of users in order to be successful, are notoriously hard to get off the ground. If the project had the feeling of a social movement behind it -- in the spirit of resource sharing, as well as environmental friendliness insofar as people like me would be more likely to start using the bus -- perhaps the founders could sign up a base of users over time, prior to actually launching the service. And then once the number of enrolled users was large enough, could launch the live service with a critical mass of users already in place. (Of course, if they tried that out here, this being Seattle, most of those enrolled users who said they would show up, would probably flake out.)

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If Ridesharing Is Banned, What About Ride-Trading?

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  • It Won't Work (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Talderas (1212466) on Monday March 31, 2014 @11:44AM (#46621867)

    It won't work because it will be, successfully, argued that you're getting paid in miles rather than cash.

    • That's a slippery slope right there. You could almost argue with it that you shouldn't be picking strangers as hitch-hikers because as soon as they pick *you* at some later time, an illegal business transaction is thereby concluded.
      • Re:It Won't Work (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Lumpy (12016) on Monday March 31, 2014 @12:08PM (#46622181) Homepage

        It's only illegal because of the legitimized extortion racket that most cities have in place.

        • Re:It Won't Work (Score:5, Insightful)

          by SuperTechnoNerd (964528) on Monday March 31, 2014 @12:27PM (#46622437)
          I ran a computer consulting company for years. I used to sell 5 - 10 new custom built computers a month. Now it seems the small device market (phones and tablets) have destroyed that. Perhaps I can get the government to make phones and tablets illegal, so I can go back to building computers and making profit...
          • Re:It Won't Work (Score:5, Interesting)

            by ackthpt (218170) on Monday March 31, 2014 @01:12PM (#46622873) Homepage Journal

            I ran a computer consulting company for years. I used to sell 5 - 10 new custom built computers a month. Now it seems the small device market (phones and tablets) have destroyed that. Perhaps I can get the government to make phones and tablets illegal, so I can go back to building computers and making profit...

            I read an article regarding the demise of the Trolley in Saginaw, Michigan, back in the early 20th century. Seems strangely relevant to this, though it was market forces, not the hand of government that tipped the scales.

            Trolleys require fixed rails to travel on, which limits their routes. Independent bus companies sprung up, employing the tactic of pulling up by the trolley stop, before the trolley arrived and charging less than the trolley operators. The trolley operators, which had more operational costs and required considerable capital investment to lay and expand tracks, complained bitterly how this competition would drive them out of business - the courts sided with the bus operators, as they were operating within the law - nothing guaranteed the trolley company exclusivity. The trolley company close up, unable to compete.

            Ironically, as the buses had effectively set up their routes to follow the trolley lines, they had their own inflexibility, which was exploited by Jitney operators - cabs which were smaller than buses and would take people to their door, rather than leaving them at a stop to walk the remainder of their trip home. The bus operators complained about this competition, but again, the jitney operators (forerunners of today's taxi cabs) were operating within the law. The bus companies couldn't compete and followed the trolley into oblivion.

            So now we have the government staying the hand of public enterprise in favor of the taxi. That's pretty rich. I think it could be contested.

      • by bhcompy (1877290)
        Benefits from working are taxable. If you are picking people up as a way to work, you're working and those miles are taxable at their dollar value. Carpooling to work and picking up hitchhikers isn't the same as doing what these apps are doing
      • by BitterOak (537666)

        That's a slippery slope right there. You could almost argue with it that you shouldn't be picking strangers as hitch-hikers because as soon as they pick *you* at some later time, an illegal business transaction is thereby concluded.

        Actually, it is already illegal in many jurisdictions to hitchhike or pick up hitchhikers and has been for quite some time.

    • by khasim (1285)

      It won't work because it will be, successfully, argued that you're getting paid in miles rather than cash.

      And there will need to be a central authority where you can redeem miles and register to participate. And at that point the government can set a value on each mile.

      Just because YOU don't set a value on something does NOT mean the government CANNOT.

      And no, sex-work is NOT the same as a girlfriend who borrows money from you.

    • by delcielo (217760)
      Yes. We see this in aviation.

      The law likely references "compensation" rather than money. Compensation may take many forms.

      The laws regarding commercial flight operations plumb the depths of this type of situation. There was even a case where a pilot gave a potential business partner a ride from one of the Hawaiian islands to another without charging him (so he could catch an airline flight out). But, because it was assumed that the potential partner might factor that into his process and remunerate with
    • It won't work, but not because miles are payment.
      Trading miles doesn't work when your clients prefer to not have a car
  • Free market (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Monday March 31, 2014 @11:45AM (#46621877)
    So much for free market economics and competition. I hate it when government goes to lengths like these as competition is good all around.
    • Re:Free market (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Monday March 31, 2014 @11:55AM (#46621985) Homepage Journal

      So much for free market economics and competition.

      Meh.

      I've always believed the black market to be the only true "free" market, anyway.

      Criminalizing booze and drugs never slowed down usage, all it did was eliminate the need to follow regulation, and kept/keeps the government from getting a cut of the action.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        "Criminalizing booze and drugs never slowed down usage"
        wrong. Booze consumption drop to very lo rates, AND it did exactly what it set out to do, substantially reduce domestic violence.

        Yeah, people love to portray the women who wanted prohibition as some sort of childless emotionaless hah when in reality is was women who were abused.

        • "Criminalizing booze and drugs never slowed down usage"
          wrong. Booze consumption drop to very lo rates, AND it did exactly what it set out to do, substantially reduce domestic violence.

          And I presume you have empirical data to back that claim, yes?

          Data that takes into account the fact that when something is made illegal, many people who use it stop admitting to that fact, correct?

          Or are we to take your word for it? Because I'm not very good at doing that.

          • Re:Free market (Score:5, Informative)

            by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday March 31, 2014 @12:41PM (#46622589) Homepage

            Yes [nber.org].

            We find that alcohol consumption fell sharply at the beginning of Prohibition, to approximately 30 percent of its pre-Prohibition level. During the next several years, however, alcohol consumption increased sharply, to about 60-70 percent of its pre-prohibition level. The level of consumption was virtually the same immediately after Prohibition as during the latter part of Prohibition, although consumption increased to approximately its pre-Prohibition level during the subsequent decade.

            That record stands even when people aren't asked at all about their alcohol use. Rather, cirrhosis rates can be measured [nytimes.com], and show a similar trend.

            • My take on this:
              1. The initial drop in usage seems to be mostly from needing to set up alternative channels - IE the black market took time to become established.
              2. The long term drop might be due to increased costs, much like how increasing taxes on cigarettes results in lower usage.
              3. Cirrhosis rates, because they depend upon the abuse of alcohol, might not be indicative, since increased prices will affect heavy drinkers more than light drinkers.
              4. While prohibition resulted in a long term 40% drop, w

    • Re:Free market (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hawguy (1600213) on Monday March 31, 2014 @11:59AM (#46622033)

      So much for free market economics and competition. I hate it when government goes to lengths like these as competition is good all around.

      As long as the new services operate under the same constraints as taxi companies, I see no reason why they should't be allowed to operate since, as you say, that's a free market at work. But they shouldn't get to skip over all of the costs of business that taxi companies absorb -- things like driver background checks, driver training (in some cities), insurance requirements, car maintenance requirements, etc.

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        I disagree about some of this stuff.

        Driver training should not be a requirement. If it isn't a requirement for normal drivers, who use the same roads as the cabs, then why are cab drivers required to get some kind of special training?

        Car maintenance should not be a requirement. Normal drivers aren't required to follow any special maintenance schedule or get any inspections, so why should cabs? They operate on the same roads. (note: some states do require all cars to have regular inspections; in those st

        • by Lumpy (12016)

          "Driver training should not be a requirement. If it isn't a requirement for normal drivers,"

          It should be, Most drivers are horribly under educated and under skilled. I would whole heartedly support anything making it a LOT more difficult for people to get and maintain a drivers license.

          • "Driver training should not be a requirement. If it isn't a requirement for normal drivers,"

            It should be

            No it shouldn't. Driver training used to be common. Many high schools had "Driver's Ed" courses. Then empirical evidence showed that this training had no effect at all on accident rates. We shouldn't continue to do something that clearly doesn't work, despite the fact that it "should" work.

        • Driver training should not be a requirement. If it isn't a requirement for normal drivers, who use the same roads as the cabs, then why are cab drivers required to get some kind of special training?

          Because when you drive other people they are literally entrusting their lives to your driving competence. While you cannot control what other drivers do, we can ensure that the people who do transport others are of a sufficient competency standard to minimize unnecessary risk to passengers. Not all drivers who can pass the basic driving test are sufficiently competent to drive other people in exchange for money. It's the exact same reason we demand that commercial airline pilots have a LOT more training

          • by kencurry (471519)

            Driver training should not be a requirement. If it isn't a requirement for normal drivers, who use the same roads as the cabs, then why are cab drivers required to get some kind of special training?

            Because when you drive other people they are literally entrusting their lives to your driving competence. While you cannot control what other drivers do, we can ensure that the people who do transport others are of a sufficient competency standard to minimize unnecessary risk to passengers. Not all drivers who can pass the basic driving test are sufficiently competent to drive other people in exchange for money. It's the exact same reason we demand that commercial airline pilots have a LOT more training than civil aviation pilots. It's about minimizing risk.

            Furthermore, cab drivers/companies are granted a quasi-monopoly on their service. It's perfectly reasonable to insist that the standards be a bit higher in exchange for that privilege.

            Car maintenance should not be a requirement. Normal drivers aren't required to follow any special maintenance schedule or get any inspections, so why should cabs?

            Because if you want to drive you own heap of junk and endanger your own safety when the axle falls off then that is your choice. When you are transporting other people however, they should have a reasonable expectation that the axle is not going to fall off or that they will not find themselves stranded due reasonably preventable mechanical difficulties.

            Bad drivers and dangerously maintained cars affect the other drivers on the road already, and they could have a passenger of their own choosing as well. So, this is nothing new with organized ride-sharing.

            Also, as far as the whole "how can you trust a stranger in this system", use rating system with user feedback like ebay does.

            • by Obfuscant (592200)

              Bad drivers and dangerously maintained cars affect the other drivers on the road already,

              Secondary effects.

              and they could have a passenger of their own choosing as well.

              People who ride in my car know me and have chosen to accept a ride with that knowledge. I'm not trying to make a living by carrying as many people as many places as possible. People who ride in cabs rarely know the cabby, and the cabby is doing it for a profit. Skipping maintenance on things that don't actually disable the vehicle means more profit. It may not even be the cabby's decision to skip that maintenance, that decision may be made by someone who isn't ever going to ride in that

        • by geekoid (135745)

          " Normal drivers aren't required to follow any special maintenance schedule or get any inspections,"
          yes they are, it's not just held to the same rigor.

      • by beelsebob (529313)

        That's the key though – taxi services are required to be licensed (and with good reason), so these are not operating under the same constraints.

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          The problem is that you can't just fill out some forms, meet a bunch of requirements, pay a fee and become a licensed taxi service. In many places, the currently operating taxi companies are the only companies allowed to operate taxis. There's a government controlled monopoly. I'm all fine for everybody operating under the same rules, but government shouldn't make it impossible for a potential competitor to enter into the market.
      • by khallow (566160)

        As long as the new services operate under the same constraints as taxi companies,

        If you're going to do that, then you need to study those constraints as well. I wouldn't mind regulations that mandate the sorts of things you mentioned. But past that, those constraints provide barriers to entry and hence, are anti-competitive.

    • When was there free market economics & competition?

    • by jythie (914043)
      The government is just another variable in competition. If companies can not survive political realities then they are not competitive in that market.
    • All it will take is one incident, one incident of a ride-sharing assaulting or mugging one of their passengers or vice versa, and the whole operation will collapse overnight.

      And rightly so. At least there is some quality control/accountability among licenced Taxi-Drivers.

    • by alen (225700)

      uber wasn't free market either
      they were shown to have told drivers to stay home on high demand days so they could jack the prices and keep the profits for themselves

    • Re:Free market (Score:5, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Monday March 31, 2014 @12:15PM (#46622259) Homepage Journal

      There is a reason taxi's are regulates heavily. The industry was rife with abuse. Random charging, taking long way around, dropping people off in the wrong place, extortion, and people had no avenue of recourse.

      That is why there is regulation around taxi companies.
      And taxi companies feel, rightful IMHO, that the regulation should apply to anyone ding the same job.

      • by OverlordQ (264228)

        Aahahahahhaha. Come to Dallas and tell me regulation has fixed any of that. Yellow Cab is the monopoly here and they're utter shit and they have the city on their payroll to keep companies like Uber out.

    • It's even worse than that. [nytimes.com] Cities are so vicious about this because they make so much money off of selling the rights to drive people around.

      They won't call it a tax, despite the fact that the city gets money and it comes from the citizens in the form of higher costs. Worse, it specifically targets people too poor to buy their own car or chauffeur.
    • by statusbar (314703)

      (reposted as my account since i accidentally was AC)

      The scariest taxi ride I ever had was in the Seattle area, heading back to the Airport after the C++ conference. The taxicab was a Prius which was broken and dirty inside - you could see the airbag. The car's signal lights did not work. The driver was weaving in and out of traffic and just about killed a couple on a motorbike, causing a big road rage incident. The taxi driver was angry that we didn't tip him. If we had tipped him a normal amount, then the

  • by John.Banister (1291556) * on Monday March 31, 2014 @11:50AM (#46621925) Homepage
    All Donations Are
    For Time And
    Companionship Only
    Anything Else That
    May Occur Is
    Between Two
    Consenting Adults

    I may have an idea for a new "ride sharing" app.
  • by hawguy (1600213) on Monday March 31, 2014 @11:52AM (#46621949)

    Why does the author think that the government doesn't (or even can't) recognize that a barter transaction is still a transaction?

    The IRS says that barter transactions are taxable:

    http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/t... [irs.gov]

    Bartering occurs when you exchange goods or services without exchanging money. An example of bartering is a plumber exchanging plumbing services for the dental services of a dentist. You must include in gross income in the year of receipt the fair market value of goods or services received from bartering.

    I don't see why Seattle couldn't also recognize that the a ride-share barter service is still a taxi service.

    • by LehiNephi (695428)
      Good point. There's also the issue of "how do I get credits in the first place?" or, "I don't own a car but still want to participate!" The obvious way would be for people to buy "miles", but that makes it even easier for the city governments to argue that it's still the same service.
      • by qwijibo (101731)

        Anything the brings it down to buying something makes all of it look like commercial transactions. Instead of trying to fit into a loophole, it would be better if it fell under a different classification entirely.

        Instead of miles, what if it were karma points and managed by a registered 501C3 religious institution? One person could contribute to society by driving for others, another can donate time to charity, etc. Each person gets and gives intangible religious benefit from the arrangement.

        Would you ha

    • by jythie (914043)
      Eh, a lot of people take a very literal pedantic view of the law and regulation and believe they find loopholes through some narrow usage of various words. Kinda like how the sovereign citizens claim to not be subject to US law via some very selective and literal interpretations of various documents while completely ignoring the legal reality.
    • by gurps_npc (621217)
      This is not plumber for dentist. It is dentist for dentist.

      That is not an insignificant difference.

      If I give you a pineapple and you return me a pineapple, that is called lending, not a sale. Among other things it means that ZERO profit is made and government treats non-profit things very differently.

      The difference is that

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        This is not plumber for dentist. It is dentist for dentist.

        That is not an insignificant difference.

        I don't see the difference. A dentist can't fill a cavity in his own teeth, so he either pays another dentist to do it (which is taxable income to that dentist), or he tells his dentist friend "Hey, if you fill my cavity, I'll do yours later", which is a taxable barter transaction. I don't see why the fact that they are in the same field makes any difference.

        If I give you a pineapple and you return me a pineapple, that is called lending, not a sale.

        And if I give you 20 tons of pineapples today, and you give me 20 tons of pineapples next week, that's called warehousing and entire businesses are ded

  • No Car, No Service? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by L4m3rthanyou (1015323) on Monday March 31, 2014 @11:55AM (#46621983)

    Wouldn't a trading system exclude people who don't own a car, and would that group not comprise a significant portion of riders served by the existing ridesharing services?

    • by RobinH (124750)
      Depends what you get in trade. Maybe it's another kind of ride.
    • by hink (89192)
      It also gives no incentive to be a driver if you don't need to be a passenger. You know, since you already have a car?
      I am sure there are a fraction of the existing ride-share drivers who do it to stick it to the man. They are probably the same people who fly to another city and use that ride-sharing setup as a passenger. But then there are the probably a majority of the drivers using it as an income source. So if they have a way to exchange their accumulated and unwanted miles to cash, you are squarely i
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 31, 2014 @11:55AM (#46621999)

    and why should I value what he has to say?
    (Yes, I know he pays /. to post his stuff)

  • If Seattle is anything like New York they make a ton of money on taxi medallions. Less taxis, less revenue. :-(
    • by geekoid (135745)

      You need to ask where that money is going. I don't know about NY taxi, but I do know of other situation that require licensing and that money just pays for the program itself.

  • I just don't see myself hopping in with strangers either way. I prefer my own vehicle or public transit.

  • Cabs are a stupid, no money industry that's dying. Let it die. When governments prop up ancient technology and services, nobody benefits. "Protecting" a bad business from cheaper competition is irresponsible. This is a free market. Cab companies can operate cheaper and more efficiently and make their own apps or lose and go out of business.
    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      Say that at 2AM when most of the ride share drivers are drunk or in bed and there are no taxi drivers left.

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      ...

      How about you stop thinking its a brilliant idea to hop in the car with someone you've never met, no one has vetted, no one has inspected the car ...

      Do you hitchhike? Thats what this is? Do you know why your momma told you not to hitch hike? I'm fairly certain you ignored her.

      I personally am Ok with it cause the sooner people like you get killed off by some raving maniac or some poorly maintained car, the better. Unfortunately, you're the kind of asshole that'll take out some innocent family who does

  • If you don't have a car, you can't participate. Eventually your miles goes to zero, what do you do then?
  • Not playing nice. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by duke_cheetah2003 (862933) on Monday March 31, 2014 @12:09PM (#46622185) Homepage

    Sounds like, after doing a quick 15 minutes of research that Uber, Lyft and their kin don't really care to play by the established regulations for for-hire drivers.

    Looks like these new kids on the block are being rebuffed trying to bully their way past regulations that're established to keep the for-hire drivers gainfully employed and playing fairly.

    Also seems to be a huge money grab by Corporate outside of these cities, charging drivers rather steep 'dispatch fees.' Read between the lines folks, this is not an innocent 'innovative' tech company trying to fix something that's broken. Smells more like swooping down on an establishment that's individualized to each city and nationalize it.

    No sympathy here. Play by the established rules and regulations or GTFO, ok?

    • by OverlordQ (264228)

      > Sounds like, after doing a quick 15 minutes of research that Uber, Lyft and their kin don't really care to play by the established regulations for for-hire drivers.

      False.

  • by businessnerd (1009815) on Monday March 31, 2014 @12:15PM (#46622253)
    Can we stop referring to these companies as "Ride Sharing" apps? It's just a way to make it sound like they are not car for hire services, but they really are. And I'm not complaining about the services themselves. I use Uber constantly. I love it. But I am under no illusion that UberX drivers "just happen to be going my way." They picked me up because they want my cash. And that is the real problem with the author's idea. The drivers don't want to barter. They don't need credit for future rides. This is their profession. Most of the drivers I have spoken to drive at least part time, if not full time. Last ride I got, I asked the guy when he usually called it quits for the day (it was the end of a long workday for me). His response: "I'll be driving all night. This is all I do." Does this sound like "ride sharing" to you? Regular taxis should have every right to be worried, though. And price is the least of it. I use a lot of taxis and Ubers, so I feel I can make a fair comparison. In general, Ubers are friendlier. Their cars are cleaner. And the biggest reason I use Uber, is because of the ease of payment. I travel for work, so I put everything on my corporate credit card, including taxis (Using cash means I 1) need to be carrying it, 2) I need to carefully track receipts and 3) I don't get the money back for another few weeks). With Uber, I just step out of the car, and my card is immediately charged and I receive and e-mail with the receipt. With regular taxis, he tells me how much, I say I want to pay with a credit card. At this point, I get one of two responses. If I am lucky, he says, "No problem" and takes my card. More often then not I get "can you pay cash instead?" or "the machine's down, cash please". I then insist on credit, at which point the machine magically works again. (No joke, last week a guy gave me the "machine's down" line and then after I suggest he do a carbon copy, he whips out his iPhone with a Square reader attached!). Ok, back to the machine. If the machine is the kind in the back seat, process is fairly smooth, but does take a little time. Or it's the old school one in the front that takes a little more time to process the payment and print out the receipts. I get that taxi drivers get less money and it takes longer to get paid (so I usually tip more), but it's a huge hassle, and creates a shitty experience when I have to argue with every taxi driver. Uber's experience is far superior. And there is no reason that taxis couldn't adopt the same payment system.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why don't you at least be forward thinking enough to start a WordPress blog or something instead of spamming us endlessly with your inane concepts on how the world should work?

  • To see what you get victims who are not covered due to insurance gaps and other stuff that the backers of the apps use to make so they don't have to cover drivers all the time / have a number of ways to get out of having to pay out putting on the back of the workers who should be covered by there job for job based work.

  • by spasm (79260) on Monday March 31, 2014 @12:30PM (#46622469) Homepage

    "but as long as money is changing hands, (1) the city will certainly view it as within their rights to regulate the ridesharing industry"

    I hate to point this out to you, but the fact "money is changing hands" is not even remotely a required precondition for a city or other government to regulate an activity. No money changes hands for you to take your kid to the playground in the local park, but cities can and do regulate safety standards for playground equipment in public parks. No money changes hands when my neighbors decide noisy leafblowers are the best way to remove fallen leaves from their lawns, but cities can and do write regulations limiting or banning their use.

    There's absolutely nothing stopping a city regulating any form of ridesharing, including the informal deal myself and my neighbor have to take turns driving so we can use the HOV lane (itself another example of regulation where no money changes hands if they really wanted to.

    Or rather, the one and only thing that either prevents or requires a city government to regulate something is the fact that city governments are representative democracies, and if the people a city councilmember represents effectively communicate that they want something regulated (eg leafblowers) or do not want something regulaed (eg ridesharing), and are convincing in arguing that they are communicating a widely held desire, city councilmembers will fall over themselves to act accordingly, or will expect to be challenged in the next election. So if you really want ridesharing to be unregulated but taxis to be regulated,communicate this to your local representatives and stop whining.

    • by kbolino (920292)

      In other words, if 40% of the population is benefiting from something, it's perfectly acceptable for the other 60% to put a boot on their necks and make them stop.

  • Your miles credit would be subject to bartering and fair market valuation provisions, if they can be considered property.
    However you might be able to argue that it's a negotiable instrument and has no fair market value. This would then require you to haggle ("sure, I'll take you 8 miles for 15 miles of credit" as enforcing it at 1:1 would support the idea of it being property. This means now, you have to auction the miles, this complicating the whole process, making it more unattractive.

  • by BitZtream (692029) on Monday March 31, 2014 @12:52PM (#46622701)

    I'm probably willing to pay more than he is, so whats the charge for front page placement on slashdot?

    I'm sorry if I'm being ignorant, but is there a price sheet online that I'm just not aware of, or do I have to call in or something to get it?

    • Judging from the quality of Bennett's submissions, there's probably an IQ cap, so if you didn't ride to school on a short bus you won't qualify no matter how much you are willing to pay.

  • At the heart of it is a guy who owns a car, then he needs a radio/web system to fields calls from clients and find the best cab. A simple web app, supplemented by a call center would work fine.
    What we have is guys who own plates who rent them for a few thousand a month, and guys who own radio despatch systems who who also want a lot. These are the guys who whine that their little cash cow would get killed. It is no secret that taxi rates are sky high, these middle men are the problem

  • It's not just to F you over to make your life difficult. Seattle in particular has an problem with unregulated cabbies screwing people over (I heard plenty about it last year on a trip there). Now, that's not to say that the sanctioned cabbies don't overcharge an run up miles on you, but you probably don't have to worry about them driving you into an alley and putting a gun in your face.

    So, these organic solutions reopen that can of worms. It's interesting to see how these services are trying to overcom

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Pittsburgh's new mayor Bill Peduto was asked by local taxi companies (who are notorious for booking rides and not showing up), and by the state Public Utility Commision to crack down on rideshare services. The mayor gave zero fucks.

    He took several rides share services out on the town, wrote a letter to the PUC telling them to update their arcane rules, and told the police that enforcement against these services was essentially zero priority.

    http://www.post-gazette.com/business/2014/02/18/Peduto-asks-for-ru

    • by Tsiangkun (746511)
      I, for one, will look forward to the city being sued for an enormous amount of money when the inevitable deaths happen, and the PUC showns they had expressed concerns and the mayor gave zero fucks for public safety.

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurence of the improbable. - H. L. Mencken

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