CEO Says Lack of Ridesharing in Saint Louis Is Embarrassing
Recently, Gabe Lozano, the CEO of a local tech company, called the lack of ridesharing (like Uber and Lyft) in Saint Louis “embarrassing.” In fact, he claimed that it cost his company a potential hire. While anecdotal, this story underlines what is increasingly clear: Saint Louis is forgoing significant advantages by regulating away ridesharing companies.
We’ve gone over many times how a local regulatory body, the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission (MTC), blocks companies like Uber and Lyft from freely operating in Saint Louis. To simplify a complicated regulatory story, the MTC only allows ridesharing companies to operate using licensed premium sedans, which the MTC has made scarce. This means that only expensive types of ridesharing, like Uber Black, can operate in Saint Louis, and even then not effectively.
So while many cities across the United States, including Kansas City, have altered their regulations to allow cheap forms of ridesharing (like UberX) to operate, Saint Louis remains a closed market. In many of those cities, ridesharing has provided drastically improved mobility for urban dwellers (a ridesharing vehicle will purportedly show up faster than an ambulance in New York City). In midsized metropolitan areas like Saint Louis, ridesharing companies have created hundreds, if not thousands, of new jobs.
The MTC’s reaction to all this, along with Lozano’s latest critique, has been to claim there is no problem. According to one MTC member, Lozano’s claim that he lost a hire is “a lot of hoo-hah.” Instead of opening up the for-hire vehicle market to competition and letting residents vote over what kind and how many taxis they want with their wallets, the MTC is reviving their on-again, off-again efforts to study the supply and demand for taxis. Unfortunately for Saint Louisans, the commission (which has taxi company owners as commissioners) does not have the expertise or incentives to divine the number and kind of taxis Saint Louis needs.
It should come as no surprise that talented and mobile workers would want to live and work in a city where a cheap ride is available on demand. But more than that, what does it say about how a city is run, when, at the same time local officials want to spend hundreds of millions of public dollars on stadiums and light rail and bar districts to attract residents, they are willing to allow a regulatory body to block an innovative business model that makes urban life better at no public cost whatsoever. Saint Louis should be embarrassed that its leadership simultaneously adopts failed policies out of the 1990s and stamps out fresh ideas.