Uber, the immensely popular app-based taxi company, is leaving Broward County, Florida because the local government is imposing “onerous” regulations that require the company to submit to governmental authority rather than respond to local customers who want to purchase their services.
Uber and county officials had been engaged in a dispute for almost a year. Last month, the county set fines for Uber drivers found to be operating in violation of laws that had been previously set. Uber officials even agreed to stop pickups from the major airports in the area in order to attempt a compromise with the taxi drivers who have been consistently protesting their presence, but the company’s efforts proved to be futile.
The fight reached a peak in April, when Uber announced that it could “not operate” under the new laws being proposed by the Broward County commissioners. According to the new regulations:
Each driver will be required to register with the county, submit to a county-run fingerprint-based background check, and carry the heightened insurance state law requires for commercial vehicles for hire.
It must have never occurred to these legislators that increased government assistance does not correspond with heightened safety, increased use of services, or even a more satisfying customer experience. These regulations do, however, lead to greater government control of which companies can operate in certain counties, and restricts the choices consumers have when making business transactions.
Taxi drivers no doubt had an impact on the county’s final decisions on regulations, much like their fellow drivers fighting Uber in New York City. Local taxi drivers have long protested Uber’s presence in Broward County and its ability to operate free of most government regulations, largely out of fear of the increased competition that it would force on traditional taxi services. South Florida cabs are notorious for broken air conditioning, rude drivers, filthy cars, and long rides. How dare Uber come in and try to offer a cleaner, safer, and more efficient alternative to the people trying to get around in SoFlo!?
Uber is perhaps most well-known for its presence in the nation’s capitol, where it is used for transportation by everyone from tourists and locals to elected officials and foreign diplomats. It has garnered considerable public support online, as demonstrated by the #UberDCLove hashtag on Twitter. Some of my most memorable experiences in Washington, D.C. have occurred during Uber rides with friends through the city, often because conversations with the friendly drivers have provided either insight or entertainment–or, sometimes, a little of both. In an area as busy and trafficked as South Florida, Uber would no doubt have a similar rate of success.
As reported by Jon Gabriel at Ricochet, the risks of allowing local governments to impose onerous standards on citizens is not one that should be taken lightly. For example, woman in southwestern Michigan was fingerprinted, photographed, and tossed into a jail cell at the local sheriff’s office for failing to renew a $35 dog license. While this scenario differs from the one faced by Uber, the underlying principle remains the same: governments, even local ones, must be supervised and scaled back when they begin encroaching on citizens’ rights and personal choices. Failure to do so will harm the freedoms that citizens have to choose which businesses to support, and will hamper the local economy by forcing successful companies out of metropolitan counties because of the government’s involvement.
Effective July 31, Uber will stop operating in Broward County, Florida, leaving its citizens with no alternative to the dirty cabs that have treated riders with contempt and left them unsatisfied with their services. This is just one more example of government interfering in private business and dictating who and what is allowed into the lives of private citizens.
Readers who want to act on this issue may contact the Broward County Board of Commissioners here.