December 24, 2013
They support government regulation—except when it inconveniences them. Clamping down on the big banks? Yes, please. Tighter safety standards? Love 'em. Restrictions on app-based taxi competitors, or on the number of bars or restaurants in their neighborhood? An outrageous imposition on the free market!The DC Taxi Commission is a perfect example of regulatory capture, a failure of government where the agency that's supposed to be the regulator becomes a lobbyist for the very group it's supposed to be regulating. The DCTC often seems more concerned with the livelihood of cab drives than they do about protecting the consumers who use taxi services.
Let's take a simpler example. Say I hire two rides. The first is a cab I hail on the street and the second is a car I hire through Uber. Let's say I have equally terrible experiences in both cases. The drivers are rude, the cars are filthy, and the drivers try to exploit me by taking a out-of-the-way route to boost up the fare.
In the first instance, I have to manually write down the driver's ID info. I have to fill out a long form and either mail it, fax it, or drop it off in person at DCTC office in Anacostia (online submissions are not available). It's unlikely I'll ever hear back or that the driver will face any consequences for his actions.
In the second instance, I already have the driver's name and licence plate number and a GPS record of the ride; all I have to do is submit a complaint through the app. The process takes about 60 seconds and it's likely that within a day or two I hear back with an apology and possibly a partial or full refund for the bad route and other problems.
As a consumer, it's obvious which of these two scenarios better protects me. It's not that regulation is "inconvenient", it's that it's failed. DCTC is in the business of protecting the interests of drivers, and killing all competition is part of that. It shouldn't be like this, and the solution from the policy perspective is a complete reform of the regulator and how it functions.