Uber Is Coming To Baton Rouge

This post requires a theme song, so…

Tonight the Baton Rouge Metro Council, in an amazing fit of sensibility, voted 8-2 to open up the parish ordinances to attract rideshare companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar.

The Baton Rouge Advocate took video of the debate, and we’ll have a bit of explanation of it below…

Scott Wilson’s rather hostile question to Thomas Hayes of Uber Louisiana touches on the taxi industry’s chief point in fighting the introduction of rideshares – namely, that they think Uber drivers won’t have adequate insurance for the road. Uber says they maintain a million dollars in supplemental insurance to cover any eventualities beyond what their drivers’ policies can cover.

Taxi companies scoff at that claim, and they were able to convince Wilson and fellow Council member Chauna Banks-Daniel to vote against opening the market to rideshares. But nobody else; other than Joel Boe’ and Chandler Loupe, who weren’t there tonight, everybody else rolled out the red carpet for the black-car service and its potential competitors.

But the fireworks you saw had to do with Buddy Amoroso, a member of the council who has been in favor of bringing in rideshares for quite some time, trying to back Wilson off when he was busy interrupting Hayes as he tried to explain the Uber insurance practices. We’ve been hearing for a while that Wilson’s relations with others on the council, and particularly several of the other Republicans, have seriously deteriorated and tonight’s chirping is not unheard of. Don’t be surprised if Wilson has a well-funded and well-supported challenger in for his Central-based seat at the next election cycle. His stock has dropped badly since his loss to Barry Ivey in a state House special election race in 2012.

What else is on the video is Keith Wyckoff, the manager of Yellow Cab Baton Rouge, making the case for the safety regulations and inspections his company is subjected to based on the city’s taxi ordinances. Wyckoff also said it’s unfair for rideshares not to have to follow the same regulations, and he might have a point about that – but of course the solution, should the Metro Council want to broaden the transportation market in Baton Rouge, would be to allow the taxi companies to work under the same rules as the rideshares rather than the other way around.

But Wyckoff’s argument is a bit more persuasive as a marketing tool than as a public policy statement. The safety regulations taxis work under should make the public feel more comfortable riding with Yellow Cab than Uber, no?

Even less persuasive were the cab drivers trotted out to plead their case. From the Advocate’s story on the hearing comes a gem…

“You need to balance the needs of the public transportation available year-round, day-round, rain or shine, with the needs of people who are making a living,” said cab driver Jessica Chandler. Chandler said waiting 30 minutes for a taxi in Baton Rouge is reasonable, and not indicative of a lack of capacity.

So you as a consumer should be legally required to wait a half-hour for a cab because Uber’s arrival in the market would put her out of a job. Don’t put that in a TV commercial.

The ordinance changes were brought to a vote by Councilmen Ryan Heck and John Delgado, and they’re intended to introduce a bit of free-market innovation and perhaps cut down on a few quality-of-life issues in Baton Rouge. For example, this town is known for being one of the worst places around for the number of DWI arrests – either because far too many people drive drunk or the police are far too enthusiastic about filling quotas for DWI’s – and a burgeoning app-based rideshare market could very well eliminate both the practice of, and exposure to arrest for, drinking and driving.

All we can say is, hallelujah. We called for this over a year ago.

UPDATE: Looks like we caught a live one. This turned up in the e-mail box…

This is to inform you that the Advocate has printed a correction on their story regarding Uber and the City Council Meeting last night.

Your story characterizing me as a cab driver is inaccurate. Your sarcastic article regarding my “gem” of a statement is in fact a misstatement of fact and I would appreciate your correcting the story to reflect the reality that I am indeed NOT a cab driver.

I have no financial dog in this hunt. Your characterization of my statements as being motivated by not “losing my job” are factually incorrect. I have no current connection to any transportation company at all other than as a consumer. I was speaking as a person with a decade of experience in the transportation sector, including having been a cab driver in this town and subsequently, almost 30 years ago, assistant manager of Yellow Cab.

Your story, while “glam,” is simple wrong.

You can find the corrected story here:

http://theadvocate.com/home/9561578-125/metro-council-gives-thumbs-up

The correction will appear in tomorrow’s print version of the paper.

Please do not attempt to “make Hay” off my back. Simply because we disagree is no reason for you, a supposed “journalist” who failed to fact check his sources, to paint me a fool when in reality I am anything but.

Feel free to correct your story to reflect reality.

Sincerely,

Jessica Chandler, MSW, LMSW

A little bossy, but we stand corrected.

Still, an incredibly idiotic argument – because Jessica Chandler thinks it’s “reasonable” for you to waste a half-hour of your life waiting for a cab, nobody else should have a shot at using technology to get to you sooner if you’d like to give them a shot.

That this was not a self-serving argument only makes it all the worse. Altruistic buffoons are in fact far worse for the public weal than are self-serving buffoons. Thank goodness this goofery did not carry the evening last night.



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