The Uber perspective…
liv·er·y (lv-r, lvr) n. pl. liv·er·ies
1. A distinctive uniform worn by the male servants of a household.
2. The distinctive dress worn by the members of a particular group; uniform: ushers in livery.
3. The costume or insignia worn by the retainers of a feudal lord.
a. The boarding and care of horses for a fee.
b. The hiring out of horses and carriages.
c. A livery stable.
5. A business that offers vehicles, such as automobiles or boats, for hire.
6. Law Official delivery of property, especially land, to a new owner.
- pl. hack·neys
1. often Hackney A horse of a breed developed in England.
2. A trotting horse suited for routine riding or driving.
3. A coach or carriage for hire.
Do you see any differences here aside from how people dress?
Hackney – commonly referred to as a taxi here in Boston….”a coach or carriage for hire”. The going medallion price or “the right” to drive cab in Boston is 600K. A sizable bond and a hackney license.
Livery – commonly referred to as limo service or “A business that offers vehicles, such as automobiles or boats, for hire” here in Boston but, one of the biggest companies providing that service here is called Boston Coach…..I know…..very confusing. There is no medallion cost to start up, just good insurance a decent car with livery plates and a suit.
Both services perform the same function – to get you from point A to point B in an efficient and safe manner for a price…..right? The glaring difference between the two is usually the level of service and the equipment used. So why is one so heavily regulated while the other isn’t? Does a town car and a suit get you preferential treatment from the City of Boston?
Now throw some technology at this equation in the form of Uber. Fashion this technology in a way so it toes the already flimsy line drawn between the regulation of livery drivers and hackney drivers. Sounds a bit like the first days of Napster doesn’t it? Only this time it’s not the entertainment giants having a huge chunk taken out of their asses, it’s the taxi drivers. Uber and their team of lawyers know their impact on the industry much like Sean Fanning did, and Uber most definitely has taken the same BS play out of Napster’s book in the form of – “we are only middle men”. But you know what, it’s ok….
Your old pal Dot Rat doesn’t consider himself the authority on world topics but, I did stay at Holiday Inn last night. Ok BS aside, my perspective on this subject is fairly unique. Why?
At one time yours truly actually worked for a company as a chauffeur. It was a decent gig for a young lad and I even got to drive around the prime minister of Ireland in a motorcade with a police and secret service escort…pretty bad ass let me tell you. I did ok, made a little coin but moved on. The next step in my career path led me to my first love….technology….and a company by the name of BBN. These guys literally invented EMAIL and the devices that ran ARPANET back in the 60’s – you may know it as the internet today. As you can imagine, I felt very fortunate to work in what I have always considered one of the worlds best proving grounds for geeks. Picture a Dot Rat surrounded by the cast of Big Bang Theory….yup…a bit awkward at times but I soaked up knowledge as if I was training at MIT. I feel like I’m writing a f*cking resume right now but I will continue. Three weeks after 9/11, I was sent to work in Washington at the Pentagon to help with the efforts there. The entire experience changed my perspective and a month later while driving home I made a promise to myself. If the tech bubble was to burst and take my private sector job with it….I would try to work in government. Well, guess what happened roughly a year later? I took my resume and started work in local government….
Did I mention I was raised by wolves? Not really, but my family, both immediate and extended, have worked driving taxi around Boston for a period spanning 5 decades. You see, when a shipyard shuts down or they close a division of Raytheon, or maybe you refuse to kiss ass for municipal work, you could always drive a cab to feed the family and make an honest living. We had family members driving cabs through the race riots in Roxbury and the busing battles all over the city. We have had family working for Forest Hills Taxi, ITOA, Red & White, Checker Cab and Yellow Cab. We have seen taxi drivers get murdered over their cash, the installation of “trouble lights” on the roofs of taxis and the mandatory installation of partitions. I have heard countless stories of drunks, hookers, pimps, drug dealers and gang members either either trying to pay a taxi to use the vehicle as a place of business or outright trying to jump on a fare at gunpoint. And you wonder why cab drivers can be a bit grumpy?
So yes, I have seen every single side of this ongoing Uber debate.
“WTF Dot Rat – in all your infinite wisdom on the subject – where do YOU stand?”
Well, I am a believer in technology and I believe Uber has it’s place in Boston. Like all technologies it has it’s “wild west” period where people try and figure out it’s impact economically and socially. That period has ended for Uber. On the economic front they have made tons of money while taking a huge portion of business away from the taxis in Boston. Socially, people love it – especially the newer generations that are so into gadgets and anything luxury. Initially, even if most people using the service barely had a pot to piss in, they liked to exude “I’m doing so well I have car service”. But Uber facilitates this service at a cheaper price point than taxis these days because their technology helps livery companies skirt the medallion costs. And again, thats ok….because new regulations have to be written or completely abolished.
Much like BBN, Napster and the IPod have changed the world, Uber has changed the culture of transportation in Boston. Hailo is in the mix now as well…
I personally think the city should wipe the slate clean and deregulate first. Give back the medallion money to the owners before they decide to sue the city on a grand scale for not acting. No longer should we disseminate between “Hackney” and “Livery” because it’s essentially the same thing….only one has a tux on. These terms are from a bygone era and like many of our commonwealth’s weird blue laws from the same period, they need reform. Issue a general transportation license to operators and a business version to the owners. Hold drivers accountable for clean records and the businesses accountable for keeping records in accordance with DOT regulations…mandatory drug testing wouldn’t hurt either. Drivers should not be on the road for 16 hours, they should have a dress code and customer service skills. In case nobody noticed, driving all day is flat out unhealthy. Drivers should be able to pass a DOT physical – Who wants to see there driver have an “episode” while driving through the TED? Drivers should also know how to check oil, coolant, brakes and safely change a flat. Let Uber do it’s thing and track who’s getting in and out of these cars, let them be accountable for not only passengers but the driver’s security while working with the BPD. If Uber can find you the nearest car they can also track who may have just tried to rob one.
And yes, the same should apply to all you mustache riders that like Lyft and the others that like UberX. Stop with all the “ride sharing” bullshit, everyone knows you’re trying to cheat because some geek from Yale found a loophole in the framework of our regulations. If you’re making money for transporting people around the rules apply to you too….apps don’t make you invisible and the stupid pink mustache is not a disguise.
Uber and the like can certainly partner up with IT at city hall to help facilitate all the systems that need to be put in place to streamline the licensing process. Get it in the cloud, make it secure and make it FISMA certified….keep your data in the United States.
These licenses should live and die with the city…and should not be publicly traded at huge markups. Nor should these licenses be extremely expensive to begin with. In other words, do not let the Edward Tutanjian’s of the world put a stranglehold on an industry that you control.
Even with that said, if you unleash the grip a bit, evolve and raise the bar at the same time…everyone has a chance to prosper.
That’s just my take – what do you think?
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As you were my fellow rats….