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Cities Crack Down on Carpooling to Save the Environment


"You can't ban me! All the ladies love my mustache ride!"

“All the ladies love my mustache ride.”

We live in the age of marvels and sometimes our mid 20th century social democracy has trouble keeping up with the smartphone revolution. Case in point, for decades cities and towns have used the artificial market-limit concept of “taxi medallions” to raise piles of revenue. It’s every city’s “something for nothing” dream because people blame the cab companies for the skyrocketing costs needed to pay the “invisible tax” that’s the medallion. In New York City those little fuckers cost so much that you need to pay for your cab rides via credit card as it ain’t safe to carry that sort of cash around.

You might think that cab companies would object to this, but you would be wrong. You are probably under the mistaken impression that America is a “heartless free market” because news networks relentlessly bombard you with variants of the phrase “market economy” (you should understand that the term market economy is a tautology, all economies are market economies, some are just freer than others). What America is is a corporatocracy, companies are always in favour of onerous regulations that stifle competition.

But what happens when competing sets of regulations collide? In this case the various regulations designed to encourage carpooling, to help reduce carbon emissions, and municipal taxi regulations, to help reduce the size of bank accounts? Well, naturally, fuck the environment.

Thanks to smartphone apps carpooling has become easier than ever. Sidecar, Lyft, and Uber have come under increasing fire from cities around America for making it easier for individuals to carpool. The bluest of blue cities have undertaken to outlaw environmentally friendly carpooling to keep the hidden tax revenues gushing. After all, what company would pay New York City one million dollars for a cab medallion if New Yorkers can just fire up their smart phone and find a ride from someone going in the same direction? Here we have an Atlanta corporate welfare queen business owner lecturing us about the “dangers” of carpooling

Government has no more important responsibility than to provide for public safety, and many of our laws are for this purpose, including regulations covering vehicles for hire.

Because there is a clear potential for harm to life and limb when individuals are transported in automobiles by strangers, the reasons for regulating vehicles for hire, such as taxicabs and limousines, are obvious and crucial. Accordingly, there is a compelling need for government oversight and standards pertaining to all aspects of the vehicle for hire business.

The claim is problematic on two fronts, first, if it’s “completely unsafe” for people to sit as passengers in vehicles they aren’t driving is the cab industry claiming that all carpooling should be outlawed? In second, if “unlicensed drivers” are more dangerous, shouldn’t we just be banning all driving except for cabs? (Normally I would hesitate to put such ideas before America’s corporate leeches lest they take me seriously, but in this case if anything would trigger a revolution it would be a move to outlaw America’s love affair with its cars.) The second problem is this, taxis aren’t actually safer.

While American taxis, overall (and that’s important, we’ll return to it in a moment), have a slightly lower rate of accident than all drivers, they also have a significantly higher rate of injury when accidents do occur. Now there are some possible reasons for this; riding in the back seat is less safe overall than riding in the passenger seat up front, the hard fiberglass partitions required by law being more conducive to injury, the number of drivers who’re at their second job and impaired from exhaustion, etc..

The other complicating factor here is the whole rural/suburban vs. urban dynamic. The overall taxi accident rates are likely lower because suburban cabs are bringing down the rates. From personal experience I can tell you that the cabs in the city I live in are always in worse shape than the cabs in surrounding towns. The medallions in the city also come with a six figure price tag. Urban cabs also all require back seat driving with the heavy partition. So it’s very likely that by requiring people in urban settings to ride cabs, cities are making residents and visitors less safe while increasing carbon emissions that wreck the environment.

But when corporate welfare is on the line, no hyperbole is too absurd. In San Francisco the death of a six year old hit by a driver who was an Uber contractor, though not driving anyone at the time of the accident, has been hailed as “proof” that carpooling is too unsafe for the public to engage in. But there’s a problem with these sorts of claims, does this mean that the fatalities suffered by actual passengers in taxi accidents are proof that cabs themselves should be outlawed? It logically follows, right? (Again, while I normally hesitate to give government ideas, in this case the easy cab medallion money is a safeguard against government stupidity.)

At the end of the day, as it always does, government is like any other machine, it needs to be heavily greased and we workaday people are getting fucked too hard to be able to afford to do the greasing.

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