Time to “Uberize” the Transportation Economy

CascadeNewLogoBy John A. Charles, Jr.

We are now two weeks into a 120-day “pilot project” by the City of Portland to allow private car-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft to legally compete with cab companies. Given the consumer demand for such services, there is little doubt that the Portland experiment will become permanent.

Cab services have long been heavily regulated. Detailed rules governed every facet of operation, including rates, dispatching, and―most importantly―the number of cabs allowed in the city. Although justified as “protecting the public interest,” the system was really designed to protect cab companies from new competition.

This model is now being swept aside by the dual forces of technological innovation and entrepreneurial success. Goodbye taxi cartel, hello freedom.

Unfortunately, the roads that we all use are still run as a government monopoly. As with the old taxi cartel, if state officials decide that no more highways will be built, consumers are stuck with a shortage of service. And in fact, that decision has already been made. The last new highway in the Portland region opened in 1982. There are no plans for a new one.

Ultimately, this model can’t work. As Portland grows, we will need new roads. Encouraging the road-building “Ubers” of the world to provide these services is the next logical step in the growth of the regional transport economy.

John A. Charles, Jr. is President and CEO at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Economy, Employment, Government Regulation, Individual Responsiblity, Portland, Portland Politics, Transportation | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Bob Clark

    Freight transportation from Washington county to the Port of Portland is becoming a real mess, with trucks making a circuitous track over Cornelius Pass; the Vista Ridge Tunnel being a real choke point. Other major cities have multiple bypasses of the City Core; but Portland effectively only has one, that being I-205.

    It’s going to take a state wide election to change the political landscape to accept a west side bypass; and yet, the economic benefits seem enormous to unleashing the technology bastion in Washington County.

    • Eric Blair

      Here’s your chance to organize a free-market, non-governmental, solution to that problem.

      • guest

        Whap a crock of baloney you manifestoad, EB!

        • Eric Blair

          mmmm.. Baloney.

  • Jack Lord God

    I think the days of taxi medallions are numbered. Cities are in a difficult place as there is only so long you can block this before people will start to get angry about it.

    However at the same time, medallion holders are something of a victim here. Cities collude with medallion holders to limit the free market, which boosts rates, but also inflates the value of a medallion. SO who should be left holding the bag here?

    My feeling is it should be the city. Since they are the ones who instituted price fixing in the first place, if Uber is allowed they should be responsible for restitution to the medallion holder.

    In places like NYC, this could easily amount to half a million dollars. How will cities come up with this money? Easy really, just write it off as a cost of doing business. Same as they tell everyone else.

    • Eric Blair

      Fortunately, Portland doesn’t have a Medallion system.

      • Jack Lord God

        I am using it as more of a general term for the practice of artificially limiting the market. In other words, restrictive licensing, setting of fares etc. Permitting of companies and vehicles is limited in Portland so it qualifies.

  • thevillageidiot

    in answer to JLG go here.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/28/upshot/under-pressure-from-uber-taxi-medallion-prices-are-plummeting.html?_r=1

    it is what happens when a freer market is allowed to compete with the price fixed economy. free market wins, consumers win, business without gov interference wins.
    the loss (cost) is to the taxi companies and the city just exactly where it belongs. and no one else should pay for it.

  • Rider boy

    If more people rode bikes we would not need a new road.
    Wake up,people. Before it is too late. Roads are not the answer. Dust off that old 10-speed and ride on!!!
    Fools all who scurry about in their 2 ton SUVs.

    • Ron Swaren

      Since I have front window right on the Springwater Trail, I can accurately state that there is a huge difference between good weather cycling activity and ‘bad’ weather activity. A transit plan needs to be founded on the worst case scenarios. I concur that road building is expensive, and where there is an option to not build them, because other modes of transportation have reduced the necessity, we all are the winners. However, because a lot of services depend upon roads, a certain amount of road construction is going to be needed sooner or later.

      Every good idea has a natural limit. And for what it’s worth, why not challenge the hegemony of the taxicab industry?

      • thevillageidiot

        A transit plan should be based soley on private transportation for both individuals and public. get rid of the current public transportation system. it is slow, inconvienent and expensive. Bycyciling is more convient and unless you bike more than 5 miles as fast as public transit in the same distance. (don’t have to stop). then worry about paying for roads.

        • Eric Blair

          LOL.. not everyone can ride a bike. Nor can everyone afford a car, nor can everyone legally drive a car. How would you expect them to get to and from work or school?

          • Riderboy

            almost anyone can ride a bike. If need be they can get a trike. Only the most extreme exceptions are needed….for those with true handicaps. They can call Uber….that is what I am saying….

          • Eric Blair

            Uh huh. Troll someone else.

  • Shirlee

    I Uber everywhere I go. I sold my car, a big old Buick deuce and a quarter, that got about 12 MPG around town. I am so happy to be rid of that beast and to know that I am doing my share to help the earth heal her wounds. Most Uber people have tiny cars, so even if I hire them, I am doing right by our mother, the earth, as my Buick is gone! To make sure no one else drove it, I had it towed to the scrap yard and they squished it up in a little block like in Goldfinger.
    I am doing my part…are you doing yours???
    that is the question.

    • .

      Tanks, butt, your mother still ‘wares’ surplus army issues, mademoiselle wussy galore.

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