Taxicab Reforms In Missouri
Kansas City officials are considering changes to the taxicab licensing ordinance that would make it easier for non-profits and churches to offer rides around the city. Tony’s Kansas City has the story here. I support the changes, even though I understand the concerns about treating non-profits differently than regular cab companies. It is a difficult call. If you support treating all companies the same (I do), but the treatment, a.k.a. the local regulations, is awful, do you force everyone to suffer from the same awful rules? In this case, I do not, and I hope loosening up the regulations for some will lead to less restrictive rules for all.
It is the same story of awful taxicab regulations in Saint Louis. Here is Uber, the nationwide, web-based private car service, explaining why they won’t enter the Saint Louis market. The same basic explanation applies to Kansas City, which means they are not giving consumers more choice in Missouri, while they do in many other parts of the nation. Are the safety and regulatory concerns in Missouri substantially greater than all those other cities? Of course not.
I know a little about taxicab licensing. I once opened a bribe for a county councilman from a taxicab operator looking for stricter regulations to protect his company from competition. That councilman and I reported the bribe to police instantly, but another councilman who had been taking bribes went to prison.
Taxicab licensing is there to protect the interests of the cab companies, not the public. Consumers now are more empowered by knowledge when dealing with cabs, like your cell phone and GPS telling you if a cabbie is taking you on a long route. Old rules such as uniforms, regulated fares, limits on cab licenses, and restricted areas (i.e., the airport) are no longer necessary. All that is needed is a basic cab registration with the city or county (for the protection of both the driver and passengers), driving record checks on the drivers, and inspecting meters (but not rates) to make sure they are accurate and properly posted. That’s all.
With these changes, maybe people in Saint Louis would be able to get a cab on New Year’s Eve.