I support technology, including so-called “disruptive” technology. I also believe that no matter how sophisticated the technology is, regulations to protect public safety are generally necessary, and should always be enforced.
That is the basis for my position on car services, like Uber and Lyft.
It was not that long ago that the cab service in St. Louis was an embarrassment: you never knew what you were going to get. As a result, “bad taxi” was one of the most common complaints from visitors. The Metropolitan Taxicab Commission, a state-authorized entity that regulates vehicles for hire in St. Louis City and county, has done a good job of making things better with regulations that protect the safety of riders, reduce predatory pricing, and improve the reliability of the service.
For the past several years, companies that use new technologies to match up vehicles for hire with those wishing to hire them have been seeking markets for them around the country. One such company, Carmel, is already operating in St. Louis.
But, most of the attention recently has been on two companies that want to bring their technologies to St. Louis, but this is something that, so far, that they are doing in different ways.
Uber Black has entered into discussions with my office, intending to bring its technology here while abiding by Commission regulations created to protect public safety and ensure reliable service. Lyft decided to attempt to enter the St. Louis market by flouting those regulations.
Uber has suggested a few changes to the 83 pages of regulations. The company has led me to believe that if those changes are made, it would abide by the rest of the regulations and will seek certification from the Commission. Until yesterday, Lyft had not reached out to us, and then only following litigation instituted by the Taxicab Commission.
The changes Uber wants seem reasonable to me. They would not impair the Taxicab Commission's ability to protect public safety and ensure reliable service. They would allow a new car service that some people like and demand. I will urge Commission to consider and accept those changes. Time will tell if Lyft ultimately opts to follow its larger competitor’s useful example.
It is not the job of government to stop technologies, nor to limit competition unreasonably. It is our job to enforce all laws and regulations that protect public safety.