Find out more →

Get unlimited access. Become a digital member!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Competition for taxis: Does a court test lie ahead in Little Rock as in Texas?

Posted By on Mon, Jul 14, 2014 at 11:08 AM

click to enlarge RIDE SHARING: Uber eyes Little Rock. Little Rock officials shoot daggers back.
  • RIDE SHARING: Uber eyes Little Rock. Little Rock officials shoot daggers back.

The Democrat-Gazette's Chelsea Boozer had a good article this morning on the city of Little Rock's apparent resistance to new-age transportation services such as Uber and Lyft, which send cars in response to cell phone calls with an app that collects from the customer.

City Director Joan Adcock has been stirring opposition and Adcock's bulldogging often gets her way at City Hall. (Coincidentally, her work on this issue helps Ellis Houston's Greater Little Rock Transportation Services, a city taxi franchise holder, which contributed $1,000 to Adcock's last re-election campaign, in 2012.)

City Attorney Tom Carpenter has provided part of what Adcock wanted — a declaration that these companies' "business model" doesn't comply with city code regulating car service for hire. But City Manager Bruce Moore (properly) has been reluctant to send cease-and-desist letters to such operators because they are not yet operating — they are merely seeking potential drivers here.

I've been watching this situation for some time. Can  Little Rock really prevent entry to the market of technology savvy competitors that have managed to find a way to operate in San Francisco and even highly regulated New York?

It may take court cases to decide, if recent experience in Texas is any indication. In major Texas cities, the companies' drivers were banned from taking money because of similar legal obstacles. So Lyft allowed drivers to take "donations." In Houston and San Antonio, cab operators sought a temporary restraining order to block the services, but a federal judge so far has refused to go along. Reports Texas Monthly:

Houston-based U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore set a July 15 date for an injunction hearing, which could result in stopping the smartphone-based companies from operating or give city ordinances a chance to catch up with the technology.

Gilmore said she had some "real concern" about whether the taxi and limousine companies had standing for a temporary restraining order, and added that she was particularly concerned about doing anything that stands in the way of a political process that already is under way.

The city of Houston's Department of Administration and Regulatory Affairs has proposed revisions to the city's ordinances related to vehicles-for-hire that would allow ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, to operate in Houston.

Texas Monthly's report has it about right. City ordinances regulating transportation address concerns about safety of vehicles, drivers and insurance. But the ride-share services provide some flexibility in supply and demand that the taxi permit system does not. Their availability should be considered in a political process, not vetoed before they begin because of private interest lobbying.

(PS: Houston is still struggling over an ordinance revision. Here's a recent blog post that castigates the ride-share outfits for their high-pressure lobbying. Uber can afford it with a $17 billion market cap.)

It's hard to believe that Little Rock won't eventually have to find a way to join the high-tech world. What would a yuppie worker in our new tech park, fresh off a connecting flight from SFO, say when he arrives at LIT late one night and finds, as I have, no taxi and no hope of getting one? No Uber number here? OMG! LMAO!

But our joining the new world might have to reckon with how long Joan Adcock plans to serve on the City Board.

Little Rock currently has a monopoly taxi franchisee, Greater Little Rock's Yellow Cab, though others could apply if they operate a minimum of two cabs and meet other high regulatory hurdles. I'm checking to see how many cabs Greater LR is licensed to operate and how many they currently have in service. In some cities where franchisees have fought the ride-share companies,  far fewer cabs are operating than allowed, one argument for the ride-share services.

UPDATE: In 2014, Greater LR paid a $500 franchise fee and $60 per vehicle for 120 permits. It had 117 vehicles inspected for service.

PS: The Uber reaction/counterlobbying is furious everywhere. In Illinois, Uber is pressing the governor to veto legislation that Uber says is intended to hamper ride-sharing companies.

PPS — I'm reminded that Ellis Houston turns up periodically with offers, touted by Adcock, of free rides to the polls. Those offers have been followed by occasional grumbling about targeting of who gets rides and who does not. Also, Adcock has presided over direction of donated used vans by Houston to nonprofit groups, one of the many outreaches Adcock uses to build neighborhood support. For example, eStem charter school credited Adocck here for a van Houston's company donated.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments (14)

Showing 1-14 of 14

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-14 of 14

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • A supremely bad time for traveling — election season

    What a time for a vacation — with some important Supreme Court races headed to the ballot along with a few other interesting election issues, such as a presidential primary.
    • Jan 25, 2016
  • In passing: James Merriweather, newsman

    Facebook bears sad news — the death of James Merriweather, a veteran newspaperman with whom I shared Arkansas Gazette newsroom seats, laughs and not a few beers. He was 64.
    • Jan 25, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

Most Viewed

  • Social entrepreneur writes about racism and lack of high-speed Internet in Dumas

    Leila Janah, the CEO of a buzzy nonprofit that helps poor people find tech jobs, has a post on Medium about her experience with systemic racism and the lack of access to high-speed broadband in Dumas. The nonprofit she founded and heads as CEO, Samasource, hires low-income people around the world to perform digital tasks for companies like Google, Walmart and Getty Images.
  • UPDATED: A night at the Trump Show

    What I learned at last night's Donald Trump rally.
  • Trump sets record attendance at Barton? Let's go to the tape.

    Prior to the appearance of Donald Trump last night in Little Rock after a nearly two-hour delay, Barton Coliseum general manager Ralph Shoptaw came before the crowd to say that attendance for the Trump event, at 11,500, had broken a record at Barton set all the way back in 1974 during a show by the blues-rock band ZZ Top. Trump would later brag on the turnout from the stage, bumping the number up to 12,000 while saying he'd been setting similar records all over the country.  Photos and video from the event, however, would seem to tell a different story.
  • First count the evidence

  • Charges filed in deer beating caught on video

    Prosecutors in Arkansas County have filed charges against three Georgia men in a case in which, authorities say, one of them was caught on video beating a live whitetail deer with an accounting textbook as the animal lay injured in the backseat of a car.

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

Slideshows

 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation