FAGAN: Kenner City Council Kills Uber

Other than golf and a big juicy rib-eye there is no one thing I am more passionate about than the power of the free market to produce wealth, excellence, and opportunity. You can’t get any more free market than Uber.

As reported Wednesday here at The Hayride the Senate “Judiciary A” Committee killed the so called “Uber Bill” clearing the way for local politicians to stretch their power-hungry, job-killing, opportunity-ending tentacles all over ride sharing services essentially shutting them down in their city. It has begun. Dominick Impastato was the councilman with enough regard for the free market to vote no.

On Thursday the Kenner City Council by a six to one vote passed an ordinance Uber says will price it out of the market by making the services unaffordable to riders. Dominick Impastato was the councilman with enough regard for the free market to vote no.

Nick Juliano, who handles policy at Uber for the Southeast region, told NOLA.com, “The ordinance as written right now, my company would not be able to fulfill the obligations.”

Thousands of hustling, hard-working, ambitious drivers will lose an opportunity to make ends meet. This will devastate many.

But this is what government does these days. It kills, steals, and destroys the free market most often hurting the poorest among us.

If Uber does pull out of Kenner it will affect New Orleans tourism.  Zach Butterworth, representing the New Orleans Aviation Board told NOLA.com, “The airport relies on Uber, to the tune of about 1,000 pickups a day. Let’s be careful that we don’t run them away. If that went away tomorrow, there are not enough taxis to pick up the demand.”

1,000 pickups a day at the airport proves Uber works. People like the service. It has infiltrated, disrupted, and undermined the taxi industry. If the cab industry doesn’t like it then it should improve its product. Oh wait they don’t have to. Government to the rescue.

The Kenner City Council’s ordinance is loaded up with measures designed to raise costs for Uber and Lyft drivers.  Things like requiring them to hold an occupational license, plus an additional $15 dollar per person fee for all trips to and from the airport, if three or more people are in the vehicle. Uber says nowhere in the country is there a fee so stiff.  Drivers have to undergo random background checks and random drug tests. They have to pay the city 50 cents per trip that originates in Kenner.

The cost of all this government meddling and money grabbing will hit customers in the end.

The taxi industry is thrilled. Their aggressive lobbying worked. The rest of us lose.

But this is what happens when government usurps the free market. It picks winners and losers and the choice typically favors the inferior product. At this point the taxi industry’s only hope for long term survival is government shutting down ride sharing. No reasonable person who tried Uber or Lyft would ever go back to less friendly, more smelly, and far more costly taxis.

Personally I’ve used Uber hundreds of times when I travel. I’ve used it in New Orleans. I can’t imagine ever taking a taxi again.

I’ve run into several Uber drivers who used to drive taxis. Even for them Uber is a better deal. It is without dispute a better deal for passengers. It’s a good deal all around. A perfect target for government.

Dan Fagan is a former television news reporter, journalism professor, newspaper columnist, and radio talk show host. He grew up in New Orleans and currently lives there. He is a regular contributor for The Hayride. You can reach him at [email protected]

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