More Progress on Ridesharing in Kansas City
In the last year, Kansas City has been slowly but surely opening up to ridesharing companies. The city government’s initial response to the entry of Lyft last March was negative, with officials acting almost offended at the idea that: 1) existing taxi regulations were not up to date, and 2) a company would dare to start operating without their prior approval.
Since that time, the city has made progress. Officials have given up the pretense that ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft need only apply for a permit; the city has now overhauled their entire for-hire vehicle code. When Uber and others argued that some new regulations needlessly required city-managed background checks and yearly driver registration fees, the city recently amended the code once more.
This is not to say that the city would not be served by further reductions in regulation. While ridesharing regulations are much improved, existing taxi regulations have been left largely untouched. If Kansas City persists with a lightly regulated ridesharing market and heavily regulated taxi market, it risks the destruction of the traditional taxi business model. However, some taxi industry leaders are behind the most recent compromise, which could mean that taxi companies feel they can compete with Uber given the current regulatory setup. (Alternatively, it could mean that new ridesharing regulations will turn out more restrictive than they now appear.)
These caveats notwithstanding, Kansas City officials deserve credit for their progress on this issue. Their efforts certainly contrast favorably with policies in place at the other end of I-70, where regulators seem committed to keeping ridesharing expensive and unavailable in Saint Louis.