Uber and the taxi wars of the 60’s continue

You may have heard of Uber. It is a modern take on taxi service that is encountering resistance from the established business model. The Las Vegas Review Journal describes a bit of the history of this struggle: Taxi wars’ of ’60s predate today’s stand-off with Uber.

“Taxi regulations are overseen by the Nevada Taxicab Authority, which was established in 1969 after more than a decade of confrontations among cabdrivers that casino executives feared were getting so violent that they would discourage tourists from coming to Las Vegas.”

“Many of the “taxi wars” battles were waged between union drivers represented by the Teamsters Local 881 and nonunion drivers for companies such as Checker Cab”

“Over the years, statutes were modified and the five-member Nevada Taxicab Authority remains in place and only regulates taxis in Clark County. Cabs that operate in other counties are administered by the Nevada Transportation Authority, which also regulates buses, limousines, towing and moving van companies.”

“The authority board’s top objective is to best serve the riding public. But state statutes have other criteria that the public has been quick to criticize as anticompetitive and protectionist.”

Of course, the usual pattern: Union violence stimulates anti-competitive regulation that is promoted under the banner of public safety and order in commerce. What has changed? 

personal accountability via capitalist incentives.

The taxi companies primary service, that of dispatch, now no longer needs to be centralized as an app on the cell phone can do most of the work. Instead of having to depend upon the reputation of the taxi company, potential riders can now investigate the reputation of a particular driver. The scene is changing and it will take time to determine the implications and work them out to acceptable solutions. Once again, it is those playing by the old rules up against those who want to make new rules. Let’s hope it doesn’t repeat the violence from past taxi-wars.

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