The legitimate justification for the level playing field is for the sake of rider safety – undeniably the most important element of any transportation service. This is the source of the most staunch anti-rideshare arguments: Who on earth, opponents ask, would get into – or even worse, let their children get into – an unmarked vehicle with a stranger who is not even technically considered an employee of a company that has no legal obligation to perform background checks on drivers?
It sounds like madness. And it is true that there have been many cases of assaults, kidnapping and other illegal acts by real or imposter TNC drivers. Rideshare services come with inherent dangers.
However, when looking at TNCs objectively and holistically, considering the many millions of rides they provide each year, I find their safety to be compellingly self-evident. These companies have grown massively in their brief existence. They have developed vast networks of customer service and human resources to ensure that customers have a way to report issues and have worked to ensure that the drivers interacting with those customers are reputable. I have had the opportunity to visit Uber’s Boston headquarters and see this network firsthand; I couldn’t argue against their dedication to ensuring safety. The company knows what’s going on in its cars. And why wouldn’t they? Unsafe businesses tend not to get many customers.
So what of the nefarious rideshare imposters that may use the phenomenon to their advantage? I’ll put it this way: Boston did not transform from Sesame Street to Skid Row once Uber came to town. Urban life has many constant dangers, to which no form of public transit is immune, and against which we as responsible travelers must remain vigilant. Just as imposters and rogue TNC drivers have seized upon the trust of customers, so too have such criminals used the guise of traditional taxicabs to commit atrocities. Some have been the actual employees themselves. Remember, one of Uber’s main selling points is that the rider, upon requesting their pickup, is given extremely detailed information on just who exactly is on the way, complete with customer ratings.
Opponents often embellish the potential dangers of TNCs in order to advance their own interests.
The other element underlying the push against TNCs stems from the fact that they siphon business from companies that have been in towns and cities for decades. Those companies employ people who have been in towns and cities for decades, and who belong to unions that have been in towns and cities for decades. Those unions are run by people who … well, you see where this is going.
The point is, once an industry – and the network of folks that constitute it – has been around a place long enough and has done its job well enough, it becomes a fixture in that community – taken for granted by most, beloved by some and maintaining a relationship with all.
This includes politicians.
This is part two of a three-part series; check back on Monday for part three.
Joe Kourieh is an associate editor with The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman.