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If Ridesharing Is Banned, What About Ride-Trading?

samzenpus posted about 9 months ago | from the hop-on dept.

Transportation 353

Bennett Haselton writes "The city of Seattle just imposed new limits on commercial app-based ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft, effectively protecting taxi companies from low-cost competition in the form of smartphone apps. If other cities follow suit, could a company help ridesharers circumvent the restrictions by creating a ride-trading app, allowing drivers to earn 'miles' by driving passengers, and redeem those miles later to get rides for themselves?" Continue reading below to see what Bennett has to say.

The cab companies got Seattle to crack down on ridesharing companies by arguing that by letting drivers charge money for rides, they were essentially operating illegal unlicensed taxi services. So it's not hard to imagine other cities taking similar action on the same ambiguous legal grounds, as Los Angeles did in sending cease-and-desist notices to Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, ordering them to stop operating entirely.

I tried some of these services and actually never saw what the big deal was. Much of the time, they were almost as expensive as taxis, much too pricey to use on a regular basis, and I would never use them unless my own poor planning left me somewhere without my own car and desperate somewhere faster than public transit could take me. Perhaps cab companies were afraid of where the services were eventually headed -- especially towards a model where drivers could set their own prices. As far as I know, currently all ridesharing services set a minimum price per mile and don't let drivers set their rate any lower. But many drivers would probably be willing to drive at a price lower than what the app allows, and a set-your-own-price model probably really would put the cab companies out of business.

Perhaps some cities will take a more benign view of ridesharing in the long run, but as long as money is changing hands, (1) the city will certainly view it as within their rights to regulate the ridesharing industry, and (2) taxi companies will be able to argue, not unreasonably, that the companies are effectively running unlicensed taxi services. Of course the real solution would be for cities to stop limiting the supply of taxi medallions and artificially enriching cab companies at everyone else's expense (if the city's concern is with rider "safety", they could increase the number of taxi medallions while still requiring all drivers to take safety training). But that doesn't seem likely to happen any time soon. So instead, what if a company created an app that attempted to circumvent the legal restrictions, by allowing users to trade rides -- not for cash, but for returning the favor?

Here's how it could work: When you sign up as a new user, you have a "miles" balance of zero. (The very first users of the system would have to start out with a nonzero balance, so that there are some units in the system to trade, but everyone who joins after that starts at zero.) You have to earn miles by giving someone else a ride before you can redeem your miles by getting a ride yourself. So you log in as a driver, and some other user "hails" you through their smartphone app, much as riders hail drivers through Uber or Lyft. You pick up a passenger and give them a ride to their destination, and at the end of the journey, they transfer a number of "miles" to you indicating how far you drove them. You now have a positive miles balance, and you can "spend" it by hailing a ride yourself later on. Drivers and riders could leave ratings for each other just as they do on Uber and Lyft. What Couchsurfing is to Airbnb, this service would be to Uber.

Since no money is changing hands, the arrangements would presumably not be covered by existing taxi statutes. You could even make an argument that a city couldn't pass a law regulating these ride-trades even if they wanted to, because as voluntary arrangements between consenting parties, they're protected under our First Amendment right of freedom of association! Of course, libertarians believe all commercial transactions between consenting parties ought to be exempt from regulation as well, but most state and local governments take a dim view of that premise. However, take money out of the equation, and you're on much stronger ground that your ride-trading arrangements aren't covered by existing laws.

(It is of course silly and inconsistent that the law often forbids selling something for money, but allows trading it for something of "value", or permits it if the nature of the trade is not made explicitly clear. If a girl sleeps with you and you occasionally "lend" her money, she's a high-maintenance girlfriend, but if she ever does you the courtesy of spelling out the arrangement explicitly, she's a prostitute and can go to jail. But as long as the government makes those silly and arbitrary distinctions, we might as well use them when they count in our favor.)

Would ride-trading with strangers be safe? Well, when a rider pages a driver, the system could tell the rider the license plate of the car associated with that driver's profile, so unless the driver was in a stolen car, the system would always have a record of the license plate (and, hence, the owner) of any car that picked up a passenger. More generally, if I were a user in a system like this and someone told me it sounded unsafe, I would just say the same thing I always say about Couchsurfing (where I've hosted over 50 people with no bad experiences). Namely: "Look, have you or any of your friends ever gone home with someone you met at a bar? And that's fine, I'm not judging you, I'm just saying that was a hell of a lot more risky than meeting up with someone in a system where you can read other people's references." Besides, in many cities there's already thriving subculture of slugging -- picking up total strangers so you can use the carpool lane and they get a free ride.

I feel like I would be happy to have this ride-trading service available if I ever wanted a quick ride across town and didn't have my car. The only "cost" to me would be the cost of giving someone an equal-length ride at some other point in time when I wasn't in a hurry. (Or even giving someone a lift to a place that I was already going.) It's an efficient transaction because it lets me spend miles when my time is valuable, and then rack up the miles later on when I have some time to kill that's not as valuable. You can realize even more efficiencies by letting people pay "premium rates" for periods when demand is high (Friday and Saturday nights) or supply is low (early mornings when people need rides to the airport), so that the balance of miles that you pay for a ride may be greater than the actual number of miles traveled.

On the other hand, there's an inefficiency in that the system cannot serve the needs of people who want a ride, but whose time is too valuable to spend it driving in order to "earn" the miles to redeem for the ride. This is a limitation in any system that bans money as a means of trade and only lets you trade a service for a repayment-in-kind of the same service.

To environmentalists who would object that this promotes greater car usage: First of all, it might result in more impromptu car pooling over routes that were being inadequately served by buses, in which case the passengers were going to have to take cars anyway, so they might as well be piled into fewer of them. But in any case, I would actually take the bus more if a service like this existed. I live in Bellevue, about a 20-minute bus ride outside of Seattle, and I'd gladly take the bus in to Seattle if I was going to a specific destination close to the bus line, and knew I was coming right back afterwards. The problem is that once I'm in Seattle, if I want to get to some other arbitrary destination in Seattle, taking public transit is slow and annoying (and, you may have heard, often involves some waiting around in the rain). I drive my car in to Seattle not because I want to drive to the city, but in order to have a car while I'm there. If I could summon a ride in under two minutes to take me anywhere else in the city (with the only price being to return the favor to someone else later), I wouldn't need my car and could take the bus downtown.

So, even assuming a service like this would be useful, why would a company create it? We know how Airbnb and Uber make money, by skimming a cut off of each transaction. But how would a company make money just by connecting riders and drivers for complimentary rides through a free app? Well, Couchsurfing connects users for free stays in each other's houses, and they got venture capitalists to invest $22 million. The thinking seems to be that if even a free a service has enough users, it must be worth something.

The major obstacle to deploying the system, is that the system would require a critical mass of users in any given city, before it could become effective. If there aren't enough drivers active in the city, then hailing a ride would take so long that after factoring in the delay, you might as well have taken the bus. You'd need enough drivers active to be reasonably sure that in any given neighborhood, you can catch a ride quickly -- and for the drivers have to be out in force, they have to know that there's a critical mass of riders who are ready to offer some miles in their balance for rides. Services that require a critical mass of users in order to be successful, are notoriously hard to get off the ground. If the project had the feeling of a social movement behind it -- in the spirit of resource sharing, as well as environmental friendliness insofar as people like me would be more likely to start using the bus -- perhaps the founders could sign up a base of users over time, prior to actually launching the service. And then once the number of enrolled users was large enough, could launch the live service with a critical mass of users already in place. (Of course, if they tried that out here, this being Seattle, most of those enrolled users who said they would show up, would probably flake out.)

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It Won't Work (3, Insightful)

Talderas (1212466) | about 9 months ago | (#46621867)

It won't work because it will be, successfully, argued that you're getting paid in miles rather than cash.

Re:It Won't Work (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 9 months ago | (#46622047)

That's a slippery slope right there. You could almost argue with it that you shouldn't be picking strangers as hitch-hikers because as soon as they pick *you* at some later time, an illegal business transaction is thereby concluded.

Re:It Won't Work (3, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | about 9 months ago | (#46622181)

It's only illegal because of the legitimized extortion racket that most cities have in place.

Re:It Won't Work (5, Insightful)

SuperTechnoNerd (964528) | about 9 months ago | (#46622437)

I ran a computer consulting company for years. I used to sell 5 - 10 new custom built computers a month. Now it seems the small device market (phones and tablets) have destroyed that. Perhaps I can get the government to make phones and tablets illegal, so I can go back to building computers and making profit...

Re:It Won't Work (1)

khasim (1285) | about 9 months ago | (#46622157)

It won't work because it will be, successfully, argued that you're getting paid in miles rather than cash.

And there will need to be a central authority where you can redeem miles and register to participate. And at that point the government can set a value on each mile.

Just because YOU don't set a value on something does NOT mean the government CANNOT.

And no, sex-work is NOT the same as a girlfriend who borrows money from you.

Re:It Won't Work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622245)

Sex-work is your ex-wife getting paid for 18 years because you made the mistake of marrying a cheater and having kids with her.

RE: It Won't Work (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622203)

It won't work because the city will just write a new law that makes it so that the transactions being described are regulated like a taxi.

The mistake here is that Seattle judges didn't come in and rule that Uber and other ridesharers were effectively taxis. No, the city government listened to the complaints of the taxi company and wrote some new laws that would regulate them. As long as the Taxi companies see the ridesharers as competition, who cares about dollars or miles, they will push the city to regulate.

It's not about interpretation of the laws or the business model. It's about whether you can keep the city from fighting your business model on behalf of your competition.

Yep. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622241)

Don't try to hack legal problems with technical solutions. Those who enforce and interpret the law don't give a hoot about your clever technical loopholes, and they will nail you for the attempt.

Solve legal problems legally, by gathering enough public support to get these protectionist policies voted down. If you can't do that, move to a city that can.

Free market (2, Insightful)

DaMattster (977781) | about 9 months ago | (#46621877)

So much for free market economics and competition. I hate it when government goes to lengths like these as competition is good all around.

Re:Free market (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46621929)

Protect Taxi companies? I think a business should exists while there's a necessity for it. If the necessity shrinks or dissappears, then the bussines should join the same fate, no protect it creating a false environment in which it can continue.

Re:Free market (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622175)

But what if you have noisy neighbors that affect your property value? Then it's OK if the government/city/police intervenes? Because after all, it's a free market to buy a house elsewhere?

My point is that taxis often need a license that costs as much as a house, the guy isn't just making money driving people around, he's also hoping that he can sell his license at some point.

Re:Free market (5, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#46621985)

So much for free market economics and competition.

Meh.

I've always believed the black market to be the only true "free" market, anyway.

Criminalizing booze and drugs never slowed down usage, all it did was eliminate the need to follow regulation, and kept/keeps the government from getting a cut of the action.

Re:Free market (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 9 months ago | (#46622297)

"Criminalizing booze and drugs never slowed down usage"
wrong. Booze consumption drop to very lo rates, AND it did exactly what it set out to do, substantially reduce domestic violence.

Yeah, people love to portray the women who wanted prohibition as some sort of childless emotionaless hah when in reality is was women who were abused.

Re:Free market (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#46622443)

"Criminalizing booze and drugs never slowed down usage"
wrong. Booze consumption drop to very lo rates, AND it did exactly what it set out to do, substantially reduce domestic violence.

And I presume you have empirical data to back that claim, yes?

Data that takes into account the fact that when something is made illegal, many people who use it stop admitting to that fact, correct?

Or are we to take your word for it? Because I'm not very good at doing that.

Re:Free market (4, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | about 9 months ago | (#46622033)

So much for free market economics and competition. I hate it when government goes to lengths like these as competition is good all around.

As long as the new services operate under the same constraints as taxi companies, I see no reason why they should't be allowed to operate since, as you say, that's a free market at work. But they shouldn't get to skip over all of the costs of business that taxi companies absorb -- things like driver background checks, driver training (in some cities), insurance requirements, car maintenance requirements, etc.

Re:Free market (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622119)

Libertarians don't believe in the value of civilization. They think they should be able to do whatever they like, and to hell with centuries of civilization. They're mostly children, and arrested-development cases that don't understand that many regulations exist for a reason.

Bypassing regs to allow any random to act as a cab driver is obviously nuts, and would be handled by the free-market when these companies get sued over something terrible one of their drivers does, but it's better for government to step in before the loss of life.

Re:Free market (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622289)

"Libertarians don't believe in the value of civilization."

Not true, what you speak of is Anarchy, and those who advocate it we call "anarchists".

That said there are all manner of kinds of "liberterians", some believe in more government than others.

Sorry to have to intrude on your fantasy life with facts.

Re:Free market (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 9 months ago | (#46622139)

I disagree about some of this stuff.

Driver training should not be a requirement. If it isn't a requirement for normal drivers, who use the same roads as the cabs, then why are cab drivers required to get some kind of special training?

Car maintenance should not be a requirement. Normal drivers aren't required to follow any special maintenance schedule or get any inspections, so why should cabs? They operate on the same roads. (note: some states do require all cars to have regular inspections; in those states, cabs should be subject to the exact same requirement.)

Re:Free market (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 9 months ago | (#46622197)

"Driver training should not be a requirement. If it isn't a requirement for normal drivers,"

It should be, Most drivers are horribly under educated and under skilled. I would whole heartedly support anything making it a LOT more difficult for people to get and maintain a drivers license.

Higher standards are normal and appropriate (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 9 months ago | (#46622315)

Driver training should not be a requirement. If it isn't a requirement for normal drivers, who use the same roads as the cabs, then why are cab drivers required to get some kind of special training?

Because when you drive other people they are literally entrusting their lives to your driving competence. While you cannot control what other drivers do, we can ensure that the people who do transport others are of a sufficient competency standard to minimize unnecessary risk to passengers. Not all drivers who can pass the basic driving test are sufficiently competent to drive other people in exchange for money. It's the exact same reason we demand that commercial airline pilots have a LOT more training than civil aviation pilots. It's about minimizing risk.

Furthermore, cab drivers/companies are granted a quasi-monopoly on their service. It's perfectly reasonable to insist that the standards be a bit higher in exchange for that privilege.

Car maintenance should not be a requirement. Normal drivers aren't required to follow any special maintenance schedule or get any inspections, so why should cabs?

Because if you want to drive you own heap of junk and endanger your own safety when the axle falls off then that is your choice. When you are transporting other people however, they should have a reasonable expectation that the axle is not going to fall off or that they will not find themselves stranded due reasonably preventable mechanical difficulties.

Re:Free market (2)

geekoid (135745) | about 9 months ago | (#46622323)

" Normal drivers aren't required to follow any special maintenance schedule or get any inspections,"
yes they are, it's not just held to the same rigor.

Re:Free market (1)

beelsebob (529313) | about 9 months ago | (#46622141)

That's the key though – taxi services are required to be licensed (and with good reason), so these are not operating under the same constraints.

Re:Free market (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 9 months ago | (#46622375)

The problem is that you can't just fill out some forms, meet a bunch of requirements, pay a fee and become a licensed taxi service. In many places, the currently operating taxi companies are the only companies allowed to operate taxis. There's a government controlled monopoly. I'm all fine for everybody operating under the same rules, but government shouldn't make it impossible for a potential competitor to enter into the market.

Re:Free market (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 9 months ago | (#46622081)

When was there free market economics & competition?

Re:Free market (2)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 9 months ago | (#46622187)

For little people, you better believe it's a competitive free market. Not so much for the big fish.

Re:Free market (1)

jythie (914043) | about 9 months ago | (#46622133)

The government is just another variable in competition. If companies can not survive political realities then they are not competitive in that market.

Re:Free market (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622205)

The government is just another variable in competition. If companies can not survive political realities then they are not competitive in that market.

You don't think there should be any safety standards required for companies that transport people?

Re:Free market (1)

jythie (914043) | about 9 months ago | (#46622247)

Ahm, I am not sure how that relates to what I said. I was pointing out that this is a 'free market', with the government being another variable that companies must take into account, just like fuel prices and consumer demand.

The actual utility of various regulations is another topic entirely.

Re:Free market (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 9 months ago | (#46622171)

All it will take is one incident, one incident of a ride-sharing assaulting or mugging one of their passengers or vice versa, and the whole operation will collapse overnight.

And rightly so. At least there is some quality control/accountability among licenced Taxi-Drivers.

Re:Free market (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622221)

The scariest taxi ride I ever had was in the Seattle area, heading back to the Airport after the C++ conference. The taxicab was a Prius which was broken and dirty inside - you could see the airbag. The car's signal lights did not work. The driver was weaving in and out of traffic and just about killed a couple on a motorbike, causing a big road rage incident. The taxi driver was angry that we didn't tip him. If we had tipped him a normal amount, then the total cost of the trip would have been the same as the Uber ride that we took from the Airport to the same hotel.

As a consumer I want the choice to choose a safe, reliable, and trustable source. For me that is Uber.

--jeffk++

Re:Free market (1)

alen (225700) | about 9 months ago | (#46622229)

uber wasn't free market either
they were shown to have told drivers to stay home on high demand days so they could jack the prices and keep the profits for themselves

Re:Free market (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 9 months ago | (#46622259)

There is a reason taxi's are regulates heavily. The industry was rife with abuse. Random charging, taking long way around, dropping people off in the wrong place, extortion, and people had no avenue of recourse.

That is why there is regulation around taxi companies.
And taxi companies feel, rightful IMHO, that the regulation should apply to anyone ding the same job.

Re:Free market (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 9 months ago | (#46622293)

It's even worse than that. [nytimes.com] Cities are so vicious about this because they make so much money off of selling the rights to drive people around.

They won't call it a tax, despite the fact that the city gets money and it comes from the citizens in the form of higher costs. Worse, it specifically targets people too poor to buy their own car or chauffeur.

This is what cab companies need to do to remain... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46621895)

relevant.

Compete!

I can't think of the last time I called a cab from the middle of nowhere in a city and had a reliable expectation of arrival or a simple transaction to complete the deal. Now, I don't mind if they apply the same restrictions that cabs have, but I will always choose the new model over the old if the technology improves the experience.

Re:This is what cab companies need to do to remain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622037)

How do they compete with people that aren't licensed, regulated or subjected to safety inspections? That's right there is the problem. These ride share outfits haven't been subjected to the same level or monitoring and regulation that the taxi services have been and were in a position to compete on cost.

The whole bit of using apps is a bit of a red herring, the taxi services weren't using apps, but they were dispatched by computer and you could call them. If you have access to an app, you have access to a phone as well.

Re:This is what cab companies need to do to remain (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 9 months ago | (#46622163)

If regular cars aren't subjected to safety inspections, then there's no reason cabs should be subject to them.

Re:This is what cab companies need to do to remain (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 9 months ago | (#46622347)

Because their is a min. bar of safety expectation from consumers.
I suppose you don't think there should be health inspections at restaurants since they aren't required in personal homes?

Re:This is what cab companies need to do to remain (1)

jythie (914043) | about 9 months ago | (#46622177)

*nods* it is generally easier to offer a cheaper price when your services do not have to pay the same costs as your competition.

Re:This is what cab companies need to do to remain (1)

mikael (484) | about 9 months ago | (#46622263)

By that logic, asking a friend or relative if they could give you or someone else a ride would constitute an illegal transaction.

Not so long ago, many Californian toll booths would only cars to travel across for free if there were two or more passengers, and they were actively encouraging ride-sharing to reduce traffic loads.

Garage Sale Rides... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46621905)

Garage Sale - Rides to and from wherever, price varies, let's talk!

And, there could be a notice: (3, Interesting)

John.Banister (1291556) | about 9 months ago | (#46621925)

All Donations Are
For Time And
Companionship Only
Anything Else That
May Occur Is
Between Two
Consenting Adults

I may have an idea for a new "ride sharing" app.

Re:And, there could be a notice: (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622031)

All Donations Are

For Time And

Companionship Only

Anything Else That

May Occur Is

Between Two

Consenting Adults

I may have an idea for a new "ride sharing" app.

Your idea was stolen by a 1970s bumper sticker that read, amusingly "
Gas
Grass
or Ass
No One Rides
For Free"

Re:And, there could be a notice: (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 9 months ago | (#46622089)

And still applies.

Re:And, there could be a notice: (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 9 months ago | (#46622097)

Today's version would probably look like:
BitCoin
LiteCoin
DogeCoin
or Pot(Coin)
Everybody rides for a fee

Re:And, there could be a notice: (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 9 months ago | (#46622207)

4:20coin will be the next version.
Honestly, why dont people just call this crap what it really is, A way to pay for drugs online.

Re:And, there could be a notice: (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 9 months ago | (#46622283)

I don't get the "4:20" part.

Re:And, there could be a notice: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622057)

Get your head out of the back-pages.... :)

Re:And, there could be a notice: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622237)

Ass, Grass Or
Gas. Nobody Rides
For Free

Re:And, there could be a notice: (1)

Kurast (1662819) | about 9 months ago | (#46622395)

All Donations Are

For Time And

Companionship Only

Anything Else That

May Occur Is

Between Two

Consenting Adults

Burma-Shave

party of the rich (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46621943)

http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Party-of-the-rich-In-Congress-it-s-the-Democrats-5363121.php

"WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans are the party of the rich, right? It's a label that has stuck for decades, and you're hearing it again as Democrats complain about GOP opposition to raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits.

But in Congress, the wealthiest among us are more likely to be represented by a Democrat than a Republican. Of the 10 richest House districts, only two have Republican congressmen. Democrats claim the top six, sprinkled along the East and West coasts. Most are in overwhelmingly Democratic states like New York and California.

The richest: New York's 12th Congressional District, which includes Manhattan's Upper East Side, as well as parts of Queens and Brooklyn. Democrat Carolyn Maloney is in her 11th term representing the district.

Per capita income in Maloney's district is $75,479. That's more than $75,000 a year for every man, woman and child. The next highest income district, which runs along the southern California coast, comes in at $61,273. Democrat Henry Waxman is in his 20th term representing the Los Angeles-area district.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco district comes in at No. 8.

Across the country, Democratic House districts have an average per capita income of $27,893. That's about $1,000 higher than the average income in Republican districts. The difference is relatively small because Democrats also represent a lot of poor districts, putting the average in the middle.

Democrats say the "party of the rich" label is more about policies than constituents."

Re:party of the rich (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622105)

Please fuck yourself in the ear with an ice pick. Thanks.

Re:party of the rich (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622227)

Awww. Dumb Dem hurt feelings?

Truth hurts, doesn't it scumbag?

Re:party of the rich (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622231)

ohhh, the left getting called out as the fucking hypocrites they are stings someone a bit I think...

Re:party of the rich (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622385)

translation: I can't argue your points, so I will resort to vitriol because you've offended my beloved party. Thanks.

Good grief. Grow up and figure out that the D and R labels are a cunt hair apart and are two sides of the same coin.

Re:party of the rich (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622319)

Both are parties of the rich, but the Republicans are better at exploiting the ignorant, which is why underdeveloped areas tend to vote Republican. More educated regions correctly identify the Democrats as slightly more likely to build a decent society.

Re:party of the rich (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622335)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/02/16/the-7-political-groups-most-likely-to-believe-in-astrology/

Truth is kryptonite to a Democrat. Suck it.

It's a barter transaction (2)

hawguy (1600213) | about 9 months ago | (#46621949)

Why does the author think that the government doesn't (or even can't) recognize that a barter transaction is still a transaction?

The IRS says that barter transactions are taxable:

http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/t... [irs.gov]

Bartering occurs when you exchange goods or services without exchanging money. An example of bartering is a plumber exchanging plumbing services for the dental services of a dentist. You must include in gross income in the year of receipt the fair market value of goods or services received from bartering.

I don't see why Seattle couldn't also recognize that the a ride-share barter service is still a taxi service.

Re:It's a barter transaction (1)

LehiNephi (695428) | about 9 months ago | (#46622017)

Good point. There's also the issue of "how do I get credits in the first place?" or, "I don't own a car but still want to participate!" The obvious way would be for people to buy "miles", but that makes it even easier for the city governments to argue that it's still the same service.

Re:It's a barter transaction (1)

qwijibo (101731) | about 9 months ago | (#46622447)

Anything the brings it down to buying something makes all of it look like commercial transactions. Instead of trying to fit into a loophole, it would be better if it fell under a different classification entirely.

Instead of miles, what if it were karma points and managed by a registered 501C3 religious institution? One person could contribute to society by driving for others, another can donate time to charity, etc. Each person gets and gives intangible religious benefit from the arrangement.

Would you have a problem giving a ride to someone and getting nothing in return, knowing that they are helping others too, such as:
Charity workers (e.g., soup kitchen)
Boy/Girl scout leaders/helpers
Volunteer for kids weekend sports

I carpool to work frequently. A coworker gave me rides to work for a couple months when I broke my hand. I've been driving the carpool for a couple of years since then. I get to use the carpool lane, collectively we create less pollution by leaving his truck behind, and I'm coming to work anyway. It's been a win-win arrangement for us.

Re:It's a barter transaction (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622189)

Why does the author think that the government doesn't (or even can't) recognize that a barter transaction is still a transaction?

Because the "author" is Bennie Hasslehoff, /.'s village idiot.

Re:It's a barter transaction (1)

jythie (914043) | about 9 months ago | (#46622199)

Eh, a lot of people take a very literal pedantic view of the law and regulation and believe they find loopholes through some narrow usage of various words. Kinda like how the sovereign citizens claim to not be subject to US law via some very selective and literal interpretations of various documents while completely ignoring the legal reality.

Time to start disobeying these assholes (2)

shiftless (410350) | about 9 months ago | (#46621951)

I have a GOD GIVEN RIGHT to rideshare, or to drive a car, or whatever else it takes to feed my family. I'm a free and sovereign citizen who rejects the laughable notion that a bunch of fucking bureaucrats in some office somewhere can order me around and tell me how to live my life. These fucking imbeciles can even figure out how to run their own lives properly, and they want to try and tell me how I should live mine. Fuck that shit. If and when Americans grow some balls, they will join me in disobeying these disgusting pieces of shit and their useless rules and regulations.

Re:Time to start disobeying these assholes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622137)

I have a GOD GIVEN RIGHT to rideshare, or to drive a car, or whatever else it takes to feed my family. I'm a free and sovereign citizen who rejects the laughable notion that a bunch of fucking bureaucrats in some office somewhere can order me around and tell me how to live my life. These fucking imbeciles can even figure out how to run their own lives properly, and they want to try and tell me how I should live mine. Fuck that shit. If and when Americans grow some balls, they will join me in disobeying these disgusting pieces of shit and their useless rules and regulations.

You can do Whatever The Fuck You Want (TM) but dont expect Uber or Lyft to help you, as they have realized that it is far more profitable to work within the system vs without the system.

Re:Time to start disobeying these assholes (1)

YoureGoingToHell (3452735) | about 9 months ago | (#46622295)

Then "Uber" and "Lyft" are useless wastes of space who will inevitably be replaced by other groups whose heads aren't up their assholes.

Re:Time to start disobeying these assholes (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 9 months ago | (#46622173)

It'd be awesome to know where you live.

You know, once the drugs wear off.

Re:Time to start disobeying these assholes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622267)

Snarky comments like "you're on drugs LOL" are for retards who are too stupid to think.

Use your brain and stop being a fucking idiot.

Re:Time to start disobeying these assholes (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 9 months ago | (#46622421)

Good comeback.

So, you don't live in a regulated society?

TL:DC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46621955)

Too long, don't care.

As for the question:
You can't edge in on an abusive legislation-linked monopoly by playing word games. You have to get enough public outrage to force local governments to end the monopoly enforcement. Even after removing the protective legislation, things won't work out in the utopian manner that marketers insist, but it does open up the possibility of competing with the establishment.

I hate this guy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46621975)

Why cant he add his 2 cents as comments like the rest of us? The formula is LINK -> Comment. LINK+Comment.

No Car, No Service? (4, Interesting)

L4m3rthanyou (1015323) | about 9 months ago | (#46621983)

Wouldn't a trading system exclude people who don't own a car, and would that group not comprise a significant portion of riders served by the existing ridesharing services?

Re:No Car, No Service? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622053)

Exactly. I live in Washington, DC. I get around most of the time via bus or Metro, and I don't own a car. I make use of Uber and UberX for the trips when public transportation doesn't work. I'd be excluded from this *cough*wonderful*cough* idea.

Re:No Car, No Service? (1)

RobinH (124750) | about 9 months ago | (#46622491)

Depends what you get in trade. Maybe it's another kind of ride.

They win, we lose, life goes on (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46621993)

EOM

Who's Bennett Haselton (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46621999)

and why should I value what he has to say?
(Yes, I know he pays /. to post his stuff)

Decentralized Messaging (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622009)

Build an app based on something like Bitmessage and Bitcoin; then, there would be no way for a government to shut it down, because it would just be individuals engaging in voluntary interaction—you know, a free market.

Makes sense.... (1)

i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) | about 9 months ago | (#46622019)

If Seattle is anything like New York they make a ton of money on taxi medallions. Less taxis, less revenue. :-(

Re:Makes sense.... (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 9 months ago | (#46622387)

You need to ask where that money is going. I don't know about NY taxi, but I do know of other situation that require licensing and that money just pays for the program itself.

My imaginary friend (1)

Orphis (1356561) | about 9 months ago | (#46622027)

I gave my imaginary friend a 1000 miles ride the other day.
Now, I want real people to take me wherever with those miles.

"rideshare" is not the proper term here (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622039)

"ridesharing" in the Seattle area has a different definition: http://www.rideshareonline.com... [rideshareonline.com] Let's be honest about what we're talking about here with these services: They're unlicensed, and under-insured taxi services.

Re:"rideshare" is not the proper term here (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622429)

Exactly. The problem is that these are not "we're both going in the same direction, I can pick you up".
That's what they were started as but people are starting to do this as a business and operate unofficial
taxis. Same with room-share type services. They are quickly becoming unlicensed motels.
If there was a way to restrict it to just people helping each each other out then the government wouldn't
be trying to get involved. Maybe restricting it so you can only pick up 3 people a day or 15 people a month
or something like that might be a way to allow it to coexist with properly regulated taxis services.

OSS Alternative to Uber & Lyft (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622059)

Why not just have an OSS alternative to Uber and Lyft. This way there's no corporation that is setting itself as a taxi company, just some citizens who choose to assist each other.

Not for me (1)

hodet (620484) | about 9 months ago | (#46622063)

I just don't see myself hopping in with strangers either way. I prefer my own vehicle or public transit.

More bans on the way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622065)

Unfortunately, this is a fight that Uber will start losing more often.

They already lost this fight in Vancouver BC due to laws requiring Limo service to charge a minimum of 75$ (why the hell?) Mainly because of complaints from Taxi companies here.

Seattle is deja vu of Vancouver where the Taxi companies complain about having competition.

Save the Environment! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622093)

Unless...of course it costs the government money....

How To Fix This (1)

Richard Meadows (3389537) | about 9 months ago | (#46622099)

Vote the current elected officials out of office and get some new ones elected who understand the Share Economy. I would submit that Seattle is ripe for such action and will lead the way in the nation. One city does this and institutes favorable Share Economy rules, others will follow when they see the benefits. Bureaucracies are inherently resistant to change, especially when a new technology comes along to undermine the assumptions on which the bureaucracies were built. Those bureaucracies’ express mission is to hinder progress. It is our express duty to educate them so they know that the Share Economy is here and is here to stay. People know and the politicians they elect will soon learn that bureaucratic walls to the Share Economy will be torn down as surely as the Berlin Wall was. Using technology to utilize inactive resources is too easy and so welcomed it won't fail.

Re:How To Fix This (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 9 months ago | (#46622435)

No thanks. I prefer a min. bar of standards for operating business.
Maybe w=you shoud read upon the history of taxi's and why there is regulation around them?

" Bureaucracies are inherently resistant to change, especially when a new technology comes along to undermine the assumptions on which the bureaucracies were built."
arguable, but irrelevant sine this in no way undermine why there are taxi regulations.

"Those bureaucracies’ express mission is to hinder progress."
false.

"...Share Economy..."
How about you define what that means?

"People know and the politicians they elect will soon learn that bureaucratic walls to the Share Economy will be torn down as surely as the Berlin Wall was."
accidentally? a little joke for people who understood what lead to it.

" Using technology to utilize inactive resources is too easy and so welcomed it won't fail."
I agree, but that is irrelevant to the discussion.

don't prop up a dying market (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 9 months ago | (#46622115)

Cabs are a stupid, no money industry that's dying. Let it die. When governments prop up ancient technology and services, nobody benefits. "Protecting" a bad business from cheaper competition is irresponsible. This is a free market. Cab companies can operate cheaper and more efficiently and make their own apps or lose and go out of business.

Re:don't prop up a dying market (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 9 months ago | (#46622235)

Say that at 2AM when most of the ride share drivers are drunk or in bed and there are no taxi drivers left.

Limited utility (1)

seven of five (578993) | about 9 months ago | (#46622149)

If you don't have a car, you can't participate. Eventually your miles goes to zero, what do you do then?

Not playing nice. (3, Insightful)

duke_cheetah2003 (862933) | about 9 months ago | (#46622185)

Sounds like, after doing a quick 15 minutes of research that Uber, Lyft and their kin don't really care to play by the established regulations for for-hire drivers.

Looks like these new kids on the block are being rebuffed trying to bully their way past regulations that're established to keep the for-hire drivers gainfully employed and playing fairly.

Also seems to be a huge money grab by Corporate outside of these cities, charging drivers rather steep 'dispatch fees.' Read between the lines folks, this is not an innocent 'innovative' tech company trying to fix something that's broken. Smells more like swooping down on an establishment that's individualized to each city and nationalize it.

No sympathy here. Play by the established rules and regulations or GTFO, ok?

The Issue is the For-Profit Nature (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622191)

If these businesses weren't for profit, I would see no issue. The problem, however, is as soon as there is a profit motive and a third party (ie the App Developer) pulling money out of the system, then it gets regulated.

Avoid that component, like a FreeTaxiApp, and I see no real way or reason for them to be regulated differently than telephone dispatch companies.

If we're really all about the sharing economy, why do these non-capital intensive systems need to be for-profit? Wikipedia works, and it doesn't even collect enough to cover expenses. It relies on donations.

How hard is it to build a taxi hailing app? I'd say a couple decent programmers, and a couple weeks of development time.

Re:The Issue is the For-Profit Nature (1)

mikael (484) | about 9 months ago | (#46622371)

In London, there are enough taxis in the area, that all you really need to do is raise your arm and hail a cab, when ones passes with a "For Hire" sign.
You couldn't make an app that simpler. Some hotels and conference center receptions have a hotline telephone straight to the taxi cab office.

If the taxi cab dispatch offices brought out there own "app", they could cover every other part of the city.

Corrupting Capitalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622243)

Things like this are the very reason why Capitalism is wrong for America these days.

Instead of letting companies rise and fall, like they are supposed to, we are banning newer industry from forming, in order to protect old industry. Same with the Bush/Obama bailouts. We should have let those businesses drive themselves to the ground as well so new companies could form, and help our economy evolve.

There is no "Sharing" going on (5, Insightful)

businessnerd (1009815) | about 9 months ago | (#46622253)

Can we stop referring to these companies as "Ride Sharing" apps? It's just a way to make it sound like they are not car for hire services, but they really are. And I'm not complaining about the services themselves. I use Uber constantly. I love it. But I am under no illusion that UberX drivers "just happen to be going my way." They picked me up because they want my cash. And that is the real problem with the author's idea. The drivers don't want to barter. They don't need credit for future rides. This is their profession. Most of the drivers I have spoken to drive at least part time, if not full time. Last ride I got, I asked the guy when he usually called it quits for the day (it was the end of a long workday for me). His response: "I'll be driving all night. This is all I do." Does this sound like "ride sharing" to you? Regular taxis should have every right to be worried, though. And price is the least of it. I use a lot of taxis and Ubers, so I feel I can make a fair comparison. In general, Ubers are friendlier. Their cars are cleaner. And the biggest reason I use Uber, is because of the ease of payment. I travel for work, so I put everything on my corporate credit card, including taxis (Using cash means I 1) need to be carrying it, 2) I need to carefully track receipts and 3) I don't get the money back for another few weeks). With Uber, I just step out of the car, and my card is immediately charged and I receive and e-mail with the receipt. With regular taxis, he tells me how much, I say I want to pay with a credit card. At this point, I get one of two responses. If I am lucky, he says, "No problem" and takes my card. More often then not I get "can you pay cash instead?" or "the machine's down, cash please". I then insist on credit, at which point the machine magically works again. (No joke, last week a guy gave me the "machine's down" line and then after I suggest he do a carbon copy, he whips out his iPhone with a Square reader attached!). Ok, back to the machine. If the machine is the kind in the back seat, process is fairly smooth, but does take a little time. Or it's the old school one in the front that takes a little more time to process the payment and print out the receipts. I get that taxi drivers get less money and it takes longer to get paid (so I usually tip more), but it's a huge hassle, and creates a shitty experience when I have to argue with every taxi driver. Uber's experience is far superior. And there is no reason that taxis couldn't adopt the same payment system.

Let off some steam, Bennett. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622269)

Why don't you at least be forward thinking enough to start a WordPress blog or something instead of spamming us endlessly with your inane concepts on how the world should work?

Back in the bottle, now! (1)

XMark3 (2979399) | about 9 months ago | (#46622275)

I see this kind of story everywhere these days... existing businesses fear an inevitable change in the market brought on by technology, so they try as hard as they can to shove the genie back in the bottle instead of trying to keep up with the times.

those apps will soon be replaced (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622277)

by ones that link you up for rides free of charge. and if a little cash exchanges hands while the app isn't looking, that's ok, too. if you think the cab companies are in trouble now, just wait.

liability lisses look at the death of Sofia Liu (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 9 months ago | (#46622337)

To see what you get victims who are not covered due to insurance gaps and other stuff that the backers of the apps use to make so they don't have to cover drivers all the time / have a number of ways to get out of having to pay out putting on the back of the workers who should be covered by there job for job based work.

Ain't government great? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46622355)

Let's give 'em MORE power.

Right to regulate (2)

spasm (79260) | about 9 months ago | (#46622469)

"but as long as money is changing hands, (1) the city will certainly view it as within their rights to regulate the ridesharing industry"

I hate to point this out to you, but the fact "money is changing hands" is not even remotely a required precondition for a city or other government to regulate an activity. No money changes hands for you to take your kid to the playground in the local park, but cities can and do regulate safety standards for playground equipment in public parks. No money changes hands when my neighbors decide noisy leafblowers are the best way to remove fallen leaves from their lawns, but cities can and do write regulations limiting or banning their use.

There's absolutely nothing stopping a city regulating any form of ridesharing, including the informal deal myself and my neighbor have to take turns driving so we can use the HOV lane (itself another example of regulation where no money changes hands if they really wanted to.

Or rather, the one and only thing that either prevents or requires a city government to regulate something is the fact that city governments are representative democracies, and if the people a city councilmember represents effectively communicate that they want something regulated (eg leafblowers) or do not want something regulaed (eg ridesharing), and are convincing in arguing that they are communicating a widely held desire, city councilmembers will fall over themselves to act accordingly, or will expect to be challenged in the next election. So if you really want ridesharing to be unregulated but taxis to be regulated,communicate this to your local representatives and stop whining.

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