Some Uber love from Dallas

They say personal experience is not a form of scientific evidence.

Fair enough. I won’t be submitting this to any scientific journals for peer review.

I’ve long been a raving fan of Uber, an app that connects me to drivers in lieu of taking a cab. I’ve used Uber for quite awhile, mostly when I travel to the Washington, D.C. area. I was hooked on my first ride and I have yet to use another form of transportation in the nation’s capital.

I was elated when I found out that Uber started operations in my hometown of Dallas last year. Finally, because I’ve disliked the Dallas cab system more than any other city, and that says a lot. 

Imagine my surprise when I learned that the city of Dallas was anything but elated.

Uber Operations in Dallas

Since Uber started operations in Dallas, they’ve had to fight regulators, city management, the Dallas Police Department, and Yellow Cab, who is leading the fight against Uber in various ways, not the least of which is with political contributions and lobbying.

Just over a week ago, regulations were slipped into a consent agenda at the City Council meeting, a last minute ploy to avoid the regulations from being reviewed. These regulations would have required Uber passengers to wait 30 minutes to be picked up and also required that vehicles have a minimum price tag of $45,000. This would have passed without discussion had the Dallas Morning News not spotted it and sounded the alarm. How this happened is now under investigation.

Personal Experience

For the cab drivers out there that show up when you say you will, take the shortest and fastest route to a destination, have effective communication skills, know the city or how to effectively use GPS, take credit cards without complaining, and provide good customer service in the form of a clean car and personal skills (or not creepily mentioning that they are dropping a girl off at home alone): close your eyes for this one.

The Dallas cab system is atrocious. It sucks, and it is a tragedy that a company capable of improving it, such as Uber, is facing so many obstacles to giving residents what we want. 

I have personal experience with being late for flights because cabs simply don’t show up. I’ve been left outside establishments for ninety minutes after responsibly calling a cab after one too many Vegas Bombs (one is too many). I’ve been yelled at for correcting a driver’s poor directional skills (or intentional misdirection). And I’ve been told I need to be driven to an ATM because, regardless of the Visa sticker on the window, the driver wouldn’t take a credit card. As such, I pay more fare and an ATM charge. 

And I’m not alone. Without fail, ask almost anyone is the Dallas area how they feel about our cab system and you will be met with resounding chagrin.

That is their business, though. I respect their choice to not provide the level service that is expected from the overwhelming number of residents in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. All I ask is for Yellow Cab and the city of Dallas to respect my choice to get reliable transportation when I need it.

Allocating Resources

Personally, I’m intrigued by how resources are being allocated, both by Yellow Cab and the city of Dallas.

The city of Dallas has made progress with respect to crime over the last several years. We no longer have the distinction of being the city with the highest crime rate among cities with over one million people, a title we donned for ten consecutive years until 2009. That said, we aren’t the safest, and until we are, I personally take issue with using undercover vice agents to target an app that helps me get from point A to point B. Surely these agents have better things to do. 

The same goes for Yellow Cab, who should be reconsidering how they are allocating resources. Rather than investing significant amounts of time and capital into preventing modernization of the industry, why not participate in it?

I may be missing something, but I’m unable to find Yellow Cab’s official app in the Google Play store on my phone. The closest thing I could find was Flywheel, which I haven’t used because, there are no drivers on it.  

Innovation

Uber is disruptive, which is why I loved it at the onset. And the scale of the disruption in the transportation industry cannot be understated.  

This battle goes beyond Dallas and well beyond Yellow Cab. As Matthew Yglesias notes in the Dallas Morning News, Google has invested an “eye popping” $258 million into Uber. Why? He writes:

Google has made impressive progress in [the self driving cars] sphere, and there’s real potential for a world where instead of you driving the car, the car will drive you.

Enter the idea of ubiquitous taxis — summoned via smartphone or weird glasses — that are so cheap they make car ownership obsolete. That’s the kind of social and technological revolution that could justify the lofty valuation granted to Uber. It explains why the same company that’s invested in the technology to drive the cars is now investing in the technology to hail them. It’s a world in which algorithms for matching cabs with passengers will become crucial elements of everyday transportation, the way gas stations and parking lots are today.

They Moved the Cheese

Industries change no matter how hard people fight it. Ask Detroit, or anyone in the subscription newspaper business. Innovation will happen, particularly when it solves a problem. Or when consumers really, really want it. Uber has both in its favor right now. 

When someone moves the cheese, squatting in the corner won’t get you fed.  

And those investing copious amounts of time, energy, and capital to stop innovation will find that their resources should have been invested into competition rather than combat.

If Dallas is successful in prohibiting, or even limiting, Uber in the city and surrounding areas, it will be a blow to its residents, innovation at large, and that “Dallas is attractive to business” reputation it wants to cultivate.  

#DallasNeedsUber