Thursday, September 04, 2014

Limited.. but not really

The glories of unfettered capitalism.... or at least the kind that seeps in under the pretense of having been fettered a little. 
The City Council cleared the way for Uber and similar cellphone-based ride services that are popular in other cities to begin operating in New Orleans on Thursday.

The council voted 4-3 in favor of an ordinance that would allow a premium service called Uber Black to operate luxury vehicles with professional drivers in the city, though not the broader, lower-cost UberX service that makes use of individuals who drive their own cars. Councilmembers James Gray, Susan Guidry and Nadine Ramsey voted against the measure.
Well they say UberX is not allowed by this ordinance but it also wasn't explicitly prohibited.
Two other ordinances relating to Uber have been pulled from consideration for the time being.
One of them, by Brossett, would have created new classes of limousines, including one that cut a rule requiring operators to maintain at least two cars.

The other, also by Brossett, sought to define services commonly referred to as "ride sharing," which are the more attention-getting and also controversial aspects of services like Uber. It also would have prohibited those services and set penalties for defying the ban.

Uber says it only plans to introduce its high-end car service, not ride sharing, but speakers on Thursday argued ride sharing inevitably follows. 
And anyway, a few of the councilmembers appear to have actually paid at least a little attention to how Uber operates in every other market it has entered and formed a reasonable opinion of how things might also go here. 
UberX, meanwhile is a ride-sharing service that also uses app technology to hail a car, but it uses ordinary drivers who are employed by Uber and Uber only. City Councilmembers Susan Guidry and James Gray have been the most vocal about what they see as the dangers of UberX, citing the lack of insurance drivers employed by Uber are required to carry and the concern that UberX's drivers have not been properly vetted by the city.

Guidry has warned at meeting after meeting that Uber X will be a reality for New Orleans as soon as the company grabs a foothold with Uber Black. Previously, Hayes has denied that accusation, saying that Uber Black is what's on the table. It is illegal for non-CPNC-holding individuals to drive for hire here, and representatives from the mayor's office who introduced the proposed ordinance said that the city will do its best to enforce the law. To that, Guidry responded, "We don't even have a head of the taxicab bureau." (Malachi Hull, the city's controversial Taxicab Bureau director, was fired in July and has not been replaced.)

"I feel like we're letting ourselves in for a world of hurt," Guidry said. "If we had stronger laws, I'd be more comfortable with this."

Al Hebron, the president of Flagship Limousines, called UberX "unenforceable" in his remarks to the council in opposition to the proposed ordinance. "Booting, tickets … mean nothing to an $18 billion company," he said. 
Amazingly, others in the room... and many around town since the day this argument began... continue to blow these facts off as conspiracy theory.  Even when faced with obvious evidence.
Two men, Christian Hebron and Carl Traub, both announced to the council that they had applied to work as drivers for UberX in New Orleans, and both had already begun the hiring process. Uber posted a call for drivers on the local job site worknola.com today. Hebron said Uber asked about his vehicle, but Traub said the company did not. Both men said Uber did not ask them about their own personal insurance.

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