Repressive Ride-sharing Regulations Beaten Back in the Big Apple

Similar regulations proposed in Michigan

Until last week New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and city regulators were poised to severely limit New Yorkers’ access to ride-sharing services like Uber. Spurred on by lucrative taxi-cartel oligarchs, the regulations would have restricted the number of new Uber drivers to just one percent of the current fleet.

Fortunately, public outcry pressured Mayor de Blasio to abandon the scheme, so for now Uber can continue to meet growing consumer demand in the nation’s largest metropolis.

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Michigan cities have their own taxi cartels that are also insulated from competition by protectionist rationing schemes. We also have our own local and state politicians willing help the incumbent cartel owners keep their lucrative oligopolies. As in New York, those owners are lobbying for state and local restrictions that would limit Uber here, or shut it out altogether.

But as in Gotham, upstart ride-sharing companies are already operating in several Michigan cities, providing jobs for drivers and lower fares for passengers. Enthusiastic grass-roots supporters have so far beaten back most efforts to restrict this innovative taxi alternative. But without a state law preempting local regulations the future of ride-sharing in Michigan remains up in the air.

The good news is, by a 71 to 39 bipartisan vote, the Michigan House recently passed legislation to do just that: prohibit local protectionists from shutting down ride sharing services (see who voted "yes" and who voted "no"). The bills would also establish a statewide ride-sharing regulatory regime requiring driver background checks, vehicle inspections, specific company disclosures, minimum insurance levels and more. Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw Township) is leading this charge.

The news from the other side of the state Capitol is less encouraging. Like “progressive” Mayor de Blasio in New York, Republican Senators Rick Jones of Grand Ledge and Dale Zorn of Ida have proposed legislation that could severely restrict ride-sharing. It would impose additional fees and requirements on ride-sharing companies and drivers and explicitly allow local governments to pile on their own regulations. This could easily put the brakes on ride-sharing in Michigan and substantially limit its potential growth.

Ride-sharing technologies are disrupting the car-for-hire industry with their convenience, lower fares and flexible, work-on-your-own-terms opportunities for drivers. If the Senate proposal passes, the public outcry in Michigan might not be as loud as it was in the Big Apple, but legislators should still heed the message: Consumers like ride-sharing and want more of it.


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