Some state lawmakers are pushing again to pass HB 4075, which would impose harsh restrictions on rideshare drivers operating across Illinois. Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed the bill back in August.
Most transit regulation is handled at the city level, and Chicago passed insurance and background-check requirements for ridesharing firms in May. But taxi-industry lobbyists have argued the city’s restrictions aren’t enough, and that the state bill is needed to apply more stringent rules to ridesharing companies to put them in line with traditional taxi companies.
But do the taxi lobby’s arguments hold up? Not when you look at the record of taxi companies.
Earlier this year, Emily Badger at the Washington Post took a look at the complaints customers filed against taxi drivers in Chicago. She found that customers complained about drivers refusing to pick up black customers and/or travel to South-Side neighborhoods, both of which are illegal. Undercover news investigations have shown that cab drivers routinely pass over black passengers. Another major complaint was that drivers refused to take credit cards, a practice also required by law. Worst of all, records also show that Chicago taxi drivers get an average of 15 reckless driving complaints every day.
Under a strict regulatory regime, taxis are failing consumers.
Better service is the norm with ridesharing. Many skeptical customers have come to rely on Uber and Lyft because they can never catch a traditional taxi due to where they live or the color of their skin. Four out of 10 Uber rides are to underserved neighborhoods. There are no widespread accounts of reckless driving and when there are issues, drivers are terminated immediately. And there are no problems with refusing to take credit or debit cards since they’re required to use the service.
The good news is that taxis have been showing improvements as of late. A recent DNAInfo reportshowed that taxi complaints tracked through Oct. 9 have fallen to 8,456 in 2014 from 10,306 in 2013. Reckless driving complaints are also down 20 percent from last year. According to one cab driver quoted for the report, drivers are making an effort “to behave ourselves … it’s harder to get jobs these days, so we want to keep ours.” In other words, because of healthy competition from Uber and Lyft, they can no longer afford to keep unclean cars or provide unsafe, shoddy service. Traditional taxi companies ignored city law and basic customer service norms with impunity. Only now, when consumers are choosing to take take UberX instead of a cab, are some drivers having a change of heart.
Ridesharing is serving customers better because Uber and Lyft make money by satisfying consumer demands – not by obtaining legal privileges through a government-granted medallion.
Of course, there will always be some bad experiences with taxi or ridesharing services. Mistakes happen. But ridesharing platforms have shown themselves to be much more effective at weeding out unsafe or discourteous drivers than the taxi industry has. And the fact that customers have voted with their dollars to use ridesharing services instead has made taxis take notice. They’re stepping up their efforts to compete on giving a quality experience (even if they can’t, unfortunately, compete on price).
If regulation has failed to guarantee a decent quality of service from taxis, then the case for imposing more rules on ridesharing is incredibly weak. Competition does more for safety and quality than government possibly can.