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Nealz Nuze

Posted: 8:03 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014

I love Uber - certain Georgia Legislators do not! 

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By Neal Boortz

…. and I can’t stand Atlanta taxis.  In a word, they stink. So when Uber entered the Atlanta market it didn’t take long for riders to switch and taxi drivers to start screaming (in some unintelligible foreign language) bloody murder. 

            I’ll leave the details on Uber to the newspapers and other sources. I’ll just tell you how Uber works for me.  Now when I’m traveling from my Atlanta condo to and from the Airport I use Legacy-Premiere transportation.   Other than that, and unless I’m in my own car, I use Uber.   I open the Uber app on my smartphone.  There I see a map centered on my location.  There are cars and SUVs depicted on the map.  I tap on one, enter my present location and where I want to go, and wait – never more than a few minutes.  As soon as I’ve chosen a sedan or SUV I’m sent a picture of the driver, his name, and how previous customers have rated him.  I can watch the icon on my smartphone and see the car approaching to pick me up.  When it arrives I climb in.  The driver, who’s name I already know, knows where I’m going.  When we arrive I get out and walk away.  Easy as that.  Uber already has my credit card information, and in just minutes I receive a receipt for the trip by email along with a link to rate the driver and his car.  The cost is automatically billed to the credit card they have on file. The cost is very competitive with a taxi, and sometimes actually less.  The sedans are usually a black Lincoln Town car … clean, smelling fresh, and the driver usually has a suit on.  Really?  What’s not to love?

            Well … you can rest assured that taxi companies and drivers don’t love Uber; not one little bit.  They’re losing customers.  Now rather than trying to clean up their act so that they can compete, they’re doing what so many businesses do in a situation like this.  They’re whining to the government.  Whah whah whah!  These people are providing a better product than we are, and they’re taking away our business.  We want you to stop them!

            Now … here’s the disgusting shocker.  The taxi companies have found at least six members of the Georgia General Assembly that are perfectly willing to carry the water for the taxi companies and who are trying to run Uber out of business.  What’s worse … five of these legislators are Republicans!

            Here’s the list of sponsors for HB 907 … the Kill Uber Bill:

  • Mary Margaret Oliver … Democrat
  • Alan Powell … Republican
  • Tom Rice … Republican
  • Harry Geisinger … Republican
  • Jimmy Pruett … Republican
  • Rick Jasperse … Republican

Here’s the approach the taxi companies are using with their helpers in the legislature.  They’re saying that Uber, which is not a taxi company, doesn’t have to abide by the same regulations that they do.  Now there are two approaches the cab companies could take here.  One; they could ask the general assembly to loosen the regulations they operate under so that they can compete with Uber.  Two; they can ask the legislature to increase the regulations on Uber to prevent them from competing.  So guess which tactic the taxi company have chosen.  Sure .. no real guessing here.  They’ve done what so many other regulated companies do … ask for more regulations, not less, to drive out competition.  Sadly, they’ve found five Republicans who are willing to help.  The Democrat?  Well … that goes with the territory.

The only thing that will save Uber from the taxi industry’s desire to regulate them out of business is a level of outrage from the voters.  These lawmakers aren’t going to continue carrying water for the taxi companies if they think it will cost them votes.  Let the know that the answer here is less regulation for the taxi companies, not more for Uber.

In fact … regulations can be blamed for the dismal state of Atlanta taxis. 

I think we can all accept the fact that taxis in Atlanta are a complete disaster.  Generally speaking, the cars themselves are in hideous condition. There aren’t three working shock absorbers in the entire fleet of Atlanta taxis.  

The upholstery, if there is any upholstery, is threadbare and uncomfortable.  The drivers barely speak the English language and frequent taxi users know to carry a small can of Lysol with them … especially if the windows can’t be opened.  Hand sanitizer is a must.  Talk to business travelers who frequently visit Atlanta – they are universal in their condemnation of Atlanta taxis. 

            Why are Atlanta taxis so bad?  Blame politicians.  For as long as I can remember Atlanta politicians have pretty much been in the pocket of the cab companies.  Perhaps there are hidden cameras that have caught the elected class at their worst.  Who knows --- but, as I’ve outlined above, you can count on politicians to protect the worst of the cab companies from the ravages of competition.

            How easy would it be to radically improve the quality of taxi service in Atlanta?  This easy.  This is a solution I proposed nearly 30 years ago, and it has been studiously ignored or rejected by every elected official I’ve discussed it with.

            Hotels.  That’s the key.  You simply allow hotels to select the taxi companies that will be permitted to park their cabs on hotel property to wait for customers.

            Now think about this.  Most area hotels have restaurants, gift shops and newsstands.  Many have spas and other amenities.  Now what if some smarmy looking vagrant walked into the hotel with a carton of sandwiches and started selling them in the lobby?  The hotel security folks would show him the door.  The back door .. with a boot in his ass.  What if someone walked into the hotel with a massage table and decided to offer massages to guests?  Out the door.  Can anyone with a stack of newspapers and magazines just walk in the door of a hotel and set up shop?  Ain’t gonna happen.  So why should anyone with a taxi sign on their roof be allowed to drive their motorized wreck onto hotel property and wait for a fare? 

            Yup!  Now you see the problem here.  A hotel can chose the operator of all restaurants, spas, newsstands, shoeshine stands, ATMs, or any other guest amenity … except taxis.  Somehow the influence the taxi companies have over our lawmakers is such that hotels are forbidden from contracting with any particular cab company to occupy its taxi stands.  No matter how trashy the cab or its driver, they’re legally allowed to wait on the hotel’s private property to pick up one of the hotel’s guests.  It wouldn’t hurt if the airport started mandating higher standards as well .. but Hartsfield is owned and operated by the city of Atlanta, so don’t wait on that one. 

On what planet does this all make sense?  Oh yeah, almost forgot.  Uranus.  In fact Uranus is the astrological sign for Atlanta taxis. 

            If the law would simply be changed to allow hotels to contract with one or several cab companies the situation would change.  Hotels would award contracts on the basis of the condition of the cabs and the appearance (including smell) and familiarity with the English language of the drivers.  Marginal taxis and unkempt drivers would either have to improve or start transporting people to dog and cock fights or to pick up cheap hookers on Ponce.  I can see the logo on the cab door now:  B&G Taxis.  

            In the meantime, we will wait with pregnant anticipation to see what new regulatory gems the august members of the Georgia General Assembly come up with to restrict competition and to pat favored constituents on the head … or elsewhere. 

Neal Boortz

About Neal Boortz

Neal Boortz chronicles his 42 years of talk radio in his book "Maybe I Should Just Shut Up and Go Away" Available on line and printed from Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

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