Cronyism Versus Uber

In October, City Council signed off on a taxi hailing that will all taxi drivers in the city will be required to use. The Arro app, which is already being used in New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago, will consolidate taxi dispatching for the city’s 146 taxi companies.

At the time, the Chronicle reported:

No taxpayer money will be used to develop or advertise the app, though city staff will coordinate with Arro, and elected officials could devote time to promoting the program.

The last time I checked, city staff and elected officials were paid with taxpayer money. If city staff will “coordinate with Arro,” then they will be helping to develop the app. If elected officials “could devote time to promoting the program,” then they will be advertising the app. Taxpayer money may not be paid directly to Arro or advertising media, but taxpayer money will be used to support this cronyism.

And this is cronyism. This is the city giving political favors to established cab companies:

Cab and limo companies had urged the city to develop an alternative to Uber, which dominates Houston’s ride market. Uber and other ride share drivers would not be included in the Arro app.

If the cab and limo companies wanted an alternative to Uber, why didn’t they develop one themselves? Why did they need to get the city involved? The cab and limo companies want to compete with Uber, but they don’t want to do it on equal footing. They need the helping hand of a paternalistic city government to help them.

Contrast this with Uber’s attitude and approach. Instead of begging the city to help them develop and promote their app, they demanded that the city let them operate their business as they deem best. Uber didn’t need cronyism. Uber just needed to be free.

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