This article is in response to “No special treatment for Uber X and Lyft” (June 3) from Minnesota taxicab owners and managers.
Around the beginning of the 20th century, homes that had once been powered by gas lamps were turning to a brighter source of energy: electricity. Gas companies didn’t take kindly to this technological advance; they fought back in the political arena and hoped to sway public opinion. Whenever innovation comes knocking, the status quo will fight back.
These days, a similar battle is being waged over innovative new ride-sharing platforms like UberX, which has dramatically changed how my friends and I travel — for the better. Before UberX was available, there were far too many times when I tried and failed to get a ride to Uptown from downtown Minneapolis on a frigid Saturday night. Hailing a cab was impossible because they were all lined up outside certain establishments. So I’d walk up to taxis asking for a ride to Uptown — and then they’d roll up their windows to reject me in hopes of getting a customer heading to the suburbs or to St. Paul.
It didn’t seem to matter to them that refusing me was against local ordinance. That’s why this debate over ride-sharing services isn’t about “special treatment.” Rather, it’s about customers being able to choose which transportation option is best for them. And customers develop that preference through their own experiences — not through lobbying.
The fact is that ride-sharing services are more reliable, transparent and convenient. With ride-sharing platforms like UberX and Lyft, your payment information is saved on their systems. That way, drivers know they will get paid and riders don’t have to worry about keeping cash on hand — an advantage for anyone who’s hassled with going to an ATM just to pay for a cab ride.
The rest of the experience with a ride-sharing service is just as seamless. Once you open the app, you can see where drivers are located relative to your location. When you request a ride, the app will tell you the precise time it will take for the driver to reach you (usually fewer than 5 minutes). You’re also provided with the driver’s name, picture, and license plate and phone numbers.
Once you reach your destination, you can rate your entire experience. Drivers are required to maintain a certain rating level, which encourages them to maintain a high degree of personal service. In addition, UberX and Lyft have key safeguards such as background checks and insurance coverage. I feel safer knowing that the information about my driver and trip are preserved after every ride.
All of this adds up to a significant new option that should be part of the Minneapolis transportation ecosystem. As Minneapolis grows in size and population — and competes to retain talent — it’s more important than ever that we not stifle innovation that makes transportation more reliable. Ride-sharing is a great complement to light rail, buses, bikes and even taxis.
I commend Council Member Jacob Frey for fighting for the needs of Minneapolis residents over the needs of private companies, ride-sharing platforms and taxis. It is not the role of the City Council to protect UberX, Lyft or taxi companies. Rather, it is their job to implement what’s best for the city.
Thus I urge the City Council to ask the right questions. Why have companies like UberX disrupted the market? How can we stimulate innovation? Is this good for our city? Minneapolis scores high on parks, health, environment and lifestyle. It’s time for us to catch up on transportation.
Kamal Mohamed is CEO of Juice Cold Pressed.