Transportation Goes Free Market in BR

Across the United States and Europe, taxi drivers have gone to great lengths to prevent free market alternatives such as Uber, LYFT, Sidecar, and Rideshare from coming to their communities.  In some places, it has been a virtual war, with taxi unions blocking streets and shutting down commerce.

Last week, the revolution that is free market transportation arrived in Baton Rouge with some heated words but little else, and the Metro Council voted 8-2 to break the monopoly that taxi cab companies have had on point-to-point transportation in Baton Rouge for decades.

The ordinance by Metro Councilmen Ryan Heck and John Delgado will go into effect 12 days after passage or upon the signature of the Mayor-President, whichever comes first.

Heck said he became aware of free market alternatives because he had to travel widely with a previous employer.  “I’ve used Uber hundreds of times in other markets and have always been very satisfied,” he said.  He said he simply goes on-line to register with Uber and immediately sees what drivers are available in his vicinity.  Drivers are rated by their passengers, and passengers are rated by their drivers.  So a prospective passenger has a lot of information on the particular driver before deciding to use him.

“I believe in the free market,” Heck said, “but we have put some regulations in ordinance for the protection of all concerned.”  He said the ordinance requires companies to carry a $1 million liability policy on every passenger.  Each driver has to be approved in a background check, and the vehicles have to be regularly inspected.

“This is real transit reform,” he said.  “It does not rely on taxing people who don’t use the service.  It simply connects drivers and passengers,” he said.

Heck said Uber has several business models.  In the first model, the driver, who is an independent contractor, works whenever he pleases.  When he clocks in, potential riders see that he is available.

Uber Black is a service using full-time drivers who provide high quality vehicles, and all of them have to be black.

Uber SUV is like Uber Black but has a higher capacity for ridership.

In some markets, Uber is also providing delivery services.

Heck said some of the free market point-to-point companies could begin testing the Baton Rouge waters by the time football season starts or even sooner.

To use the Uber, a passenger simply goes to and hits the button that says, “One Tap to Ride.”  Or you can tap “Request a Black Car” for a more luxurious experience.  There is also a button that says “Become a Driver.”

Heck says Baton Rouge residents should go to the websites of the different services and learn more.  He said if they want services to come to Baton Rouge, they should download the app, because that would show the companies there is interest here.

What about Outlying Areas?

Councilman Ryan Heck said services such as Uber could work in suburban areas such as Central, if there is enough interest there.  “Basically, it boils down to whether a driver can make enough money there to justify  providing the service.”

In areas where public transportation is unavailable, unreliable, or unsafe, Uber could be an option.  In addition, many riders want to go from point to point and not take the time to wait for a bus to take them on a circuitous route to try to get somewhere near their ultimate destination.

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