In a few short months the majority of Washington citizens will be able to buy legal pot from a WSLCB certified retail outlet. After half a century of failed prohibition the demand for pot proved too great. We decided that it was better to legalize marijuana and put it under government control and regulation. The Market won.
I haven’t bought a physical album in over six years. It’s not that I stopped spending money on music. Between subscription services and digital albums I probably spent more money in the last year than any other year in my life. It’s just that the old paradigm didn’t work and the new (digital media) is inexpensive, convenient and easy. The Technology won.
In Resolution 31174, did not the city council unanimously vote to support marijuana legalization because they wisely recognized that the demand was so high that prohibition clearly couldn’t work? Is Seattle not one of the largest tech hubs in the world? Then how can the city council not see the inevitable results of pushing TNCs out of Seattle?
The Market is here. TNCs have exploded for a reason. People are VERY happy with the services, and unhappy with Taxis.
According to a recent city survey, nearly half of respondents ranked taxi response times as “very poor,” “poor,” or “neutral.” In contrast, nearly 95 percent of ridesharing clients ranked drivers’ response times as “very good” or “good.” Overall, the study concluded, “For an industry catering to the general public, these responses signify an inability of the service provider to attract and maintain their institutional market.”
The Technology is here. Combine location based classifieds like Antengo, with ranking and review tech like Yelp, and with mobile payment options like Square or even Paypal, and you have all the tools you need to find a ride, check out the driver and passenger, and pay quickly, conveniently and easily. In a city like Seattle, swarming with programmers who like to create apps just for fun, it’s only a matter of time before a completely decentralized system arises, with no company behind it for the city to sue or regulate. This is even more obvious when you consider the popularity of these services among the techies of Seattle.
Currently, because TNC are large corporations, there are enforceable standards. Drive these corporations out of the marketplace, and ridesharing will become peer-to-peer, diffuse, less transparent, and less safe. Both drivers and consumers get a worse deal (less efficient market, fewer protections), and regulators lose all practical possibility of control.
I realize elected officials aren’t particularly fond of being told they can’t do something. No one works for election to office to not do things. However, now that Seattleites have witnessed first hand how quick, convenient, safe, and hassle free getting a ride can be, they simply aren’t going to accept the horrible taxi service forced on them before. The genie is not going back in the bottle. In the end, pushing the TNCs out of the marketplace in order to protect the entrenched taxi model will be as effective as shutting down Napster to protect the entrenched music distribution model. Good luck with that, Seattle!