A Partial Victory for Uber

On Wednesday, Mayor Turner announced that the City of Houston had reached a deal with Uber that will keep the ride sharing company in the city until the Super Bowl in early 2017.

Earlier this year, Uber had threatened to pull out of the Houston market because of the requirements the city was imposing on Uber drivers. Uber claimed that the approval process took too long and the company objected to the requirement for a fingerprint background check. After the deal was announced, KHOU reported:

As part of the agreement, the city will bring changes to Chapter 46 of the City Code, which regulates vehicles-for-hire such as taxis, limos, and companies such as Uber. The streamlined changes will reduce the costs of licensing from nearly $200 to $70, cut the licensing process in half, and allow drivers to be licensed in under 20 minutes. The policy on background checks will not change, however.

The interesting part of the agreement is not that the city gave in. The interesting part is that the city could quickly cut the licensing cost by nearly two-thirds and issue licenses within twenty minutes. Why did it take a threat from Uber for the city to do this? What other regulations can be similarly reduced?

Despite all of the the platitudes about protecting the public, the licensing of vehicles-for-hire (or any profession) is nothing more than attempt to put up barriers to entering the industry. It is not a coincidence that in city after city the most vehement critics of Uber have been taxi drivers and their political cronies.

Licensing means that an individual must seek the government’s approval before he can enter a particular profession. He cannot act by right, but only with the permission of government officials.

Sadly, Uber is trying to convince state legislators to enact regulations to govern the company throughout the state. While it is understandable that Uber wants predictability and consistency, it should be demanding that all regulations pertaining to vehicles-for-hire be repealed. Anything less means that the company will remain subject to the fickle whims of politicians and regulators.


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