Dallas' Unfair Fight to Crush Uber

City Hall does the taxi industry's dirty work to kill competition.

Dallas' Unfair Fight to Crush Uber
Mark Graham
Leandre Johns of Uber in Dallas.

UPDATED SEPTEMBER 3 2014:Yellow Cab President's Ideas for Regulating Uber and Lyft: Make Them Just Like Taxis

UPDATED SEPTEMBER 10 2014Vonciel Hill and Michael Morris Join Forces and Seek Delay on Car-Service Regulations

ORIGINAL POST:

The only thing George was sure of on a hot night in July was that he had absolutely no idea why a Dallas police cruiser was pulling him over. George, whom we agreed not to identify so he'd talk to us, is a driver for a local black-car service. On that night, he had activated a smartphone provided to him by a software company called Uber. With a few swipes of a touchscreen, a ride-seeking Dallasite with the Uber app on his own smartphone had electronically hailed George's Town Car. Once George accepted the Uber referral, the man had a picture of George, his license-plate number, his rating among other Uber users and his exact location, transmitted via smartphone. The rider did not have to worry about having enough cash to pay George, and George did not have to worry about getting stiffed. An Uber ride is cashless, and all users have credit cards on file that are billed automatically.

George had picked him up at a restaurant on Henderson Avenue. "The client was very engaging and showing me directions," George said. "He wasn't serious. I don't think he was a policeman, but you never know."

It was a fare like any other. But when he pulled up to a hotel just south of downtown, he noticed the police cruiser behind him for the first time. He wondered if he'd violated a traffic law. As his client got out of the car, the cruiser pulled around and came to a stop near the exit to the street. Its lights lit up when George approached. An officer stepped out of the vehicle and ordered him to pull over.

The officer asked George for all the usual documentation — license, city permit, and proof of the kind of insurance policy all black car-service drivers and cabbies must hold to operate in the city of Dallas. The officer verified his permits back at the cruiser while George waited, nonplussed and growing indignant. Finally, he asked George if he knew why he'd been pulled over. The officer told him he didn't see George hand his customer a receipt. What's more, he added, George was providing an unauthorized car service.

George pulled out his smartphone and tried to explain to the officer that Uber customers receive an electronic receipt via email. He explained that he did, in fact, possess all the necessary authorizations from the city. "I felt like I was doing something legal because I have the Dallas limo operations permit, a D/FW International Airport permit. I've got insurance. I've got registration. I've got everything he asked me for."

The officer, however, was unsatisfied, and he filled out two citations, both listed in municipal court as "Limo Violation." George refused to sign either. He says the officer called for backup and, for a time, as two other officers stood at the ready, George was certain he was going to jail.

After he argued with the officer for a while about the legality of his business, "he told me to have a good night, and pretty much left me right there," George said. "I think he felt like he wasn't doing something right and that's why I don't think he continued to arrest me. I think he felt sorry for me."

George would later learn that he was by no means the only one. Some 31 other Uber drivers were also cited by Dallas police in stings over the course of several months, conducted with the help of undercover vice officers posing as customers and with the assistance of private investigators hired by the lawyer for the biggest taxi company in North Texas. This went almost entirely unnoticed by the press and the riding public. But months later, when a proposed ordinance was slipped into the City Council's consent agenda that would outlaw Uber's entire business model without so much as a public debate, it wasn't long before everyone caught wind of it.

A popular furor erupted. City Council members' email inboxes and Twitter feeds were flooded with missives (hashtagged #DallasNeedsUber) from incensed, tech-savvy Dallasites who loved the consumer-centric counterpoint Uber provided to traditional cab service. Rather than waving at cabs as they pass, praying one will eventually stop, customers can use the Uber app to summon a sleek Town Car that would arrive within minutes and take users anywhere they wanted to go, requiring about as much effort as "liking" a post on Facebook.

Uber heralded a shift in the way we flag rides, which hasn't ever much changed in the history of cabs. Because taxi service is often a fairly random, one-off transaction, the industry has never felt the free-market pressures that steer consumers to the very best. Until now, that is. The industry is looking over its shoulder at a feisty tech start-up with hundreds of millions of dollars injected into it by Google. So, perhaps it shouldn't be all that surprising that Dallas, one of 23 cities in which Uber operates, isn't the only town attempting to shut the service out with radical changes to its taxi and limo ordinances. Nor should it come as any great shock that these changes share largely the same shape, and almost certainly, as Uber claims, originate from the same place: the taxi industry, which is watching Uber take a big bite out of its market share.

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39 comments
annette727
annette727

Who's insured?? Last year I tried to add my husbands Taxi on our policy, just for extra coverage. The answer was NO! And mind you we have clean driving records. I was shocked they wouldn't touch us. So my question is ? Is Uber insuring each of these privately owned vehicles and if so how? NO! And if not, how are they monitoring the drivers insurance?

Anyone can alter the coverage on a vehicle after giving them what paperwork they requested at the beginning. And Uber is not the lender on the car so they are not entitled to any policy change. Hello Dallas wake up.... I personally have nothing against Uber except they should have to follow all the same rules, licenses, monthly inspections, etc.

The ones they are hurting the most is the "little guys" like us. We have to work just like everyone else to put food on the table for our family. We are a family owned US citizen, well spoken English Taxi Service in Dallas. Please don't put "ALL" taxicabs in the same box. We are an honest company that care about customer service! Unlike Uber you are just a number. Where's they loyalty Dallas?? Or is there such a thing these days!

chuythegr3at
chuythegr3at

I like the chić feel of uber.

If taxies in Dallas were black, dripped in leather, and had personable drivers in a standard suit/tux uniform, I would totally use a taxi like that.

However the taxies in Dallas are old, disgusting and you have to wait forever.

Uber gives me a driver at my fingertips.

That's how the world is going, get over it.

The taxi cab drivers in Dallas also need to check their attitudes.

Customer service is key, and uber has that.

My uber drivers have always been nice, personable and knowledgeable about the cities I've used uber in.

I say Dallas gets rid or public taxies and just higher uber.

Plain and simple.

amhs879
amhs879

City of Dallas is not approving the new limo licenses because of Uber. They think that everyone starting the new limo business, will be working for Uber. They are scared to tell this to the public openly because of their corruptions within.

DallasCabbie
DallasCabbie

As a cab driver in Dallas since 1979 it just boils down to definitions.  A Taxi service in the city of Dallas can pick up from cab stands, hails from the street, and on demand [asap] calls for service.  A Town Car or Limo service has historically been one where a reservation is made 30-60 minutes in advance.  I have no objection to Uber as it simply is an easier way for independent Town Car operators to get more business.  A co-op dispatch as it were.  But I also feel they should have the requirement of beeing booked 30-60 minutes in advance.  How many business people do not know in advance they need a ride??

Also, the pre-booking requirement would make illegal the practice of Dallas hotel employees of lining their pockets from people coming down, asking for a taxi, and the doorman guiding the passengers to their friendly neighborhood Town Car out front and getting a kickback.

JRjr
JRjr

"Bewley, in an emailed statement, says he simply wants "a level playing field" where the law is "equally applied to all participants." "

Translation:  Bewley wants the taxpayer funded police and courts to offset his technological and public relations issues.   

 Where is the "free market" in that?

If the cab companies used some of their assets to upgrade to a Uber-type technology and to put their drivers through customer service training, they would not need the police or the justice system to intervene.


johnsmith
johnsmith

If it wasn't a Dot certified police officer he had No right to stop you no jurisdiction  But to help with some  understanding of l laws related to drivers operators and traffic here is some case law in these youtube links that back it all up help you under stand    copy past in search bar    .http://youtu.be/jILkxbK_lzk .  and  this link ,,,,,http://youtu.be/_Ytf7wGA4ns,,, and if that don't beat them into the dirt then getting a 503c certifying you as a non profit aka a church will and then they have no authority over you non profit ! aka a Jessie Jackson move

kimsearley
kimsearley

I use Uber all the time when I travel to LA...Guess what?  They actually pick you up and it doesn't take 30 - 45 for them to arrive!

kerptinpicard
kerptinpicard

Uber is way better than a cab. If you want to save $15 off your first ride, use code 521o9.

Sudilos
Sudilos

I do not authorize the city of Dallas to spend police budget on enforcing Yellow Cabs policy especially if no laws are being broken.

tim_lebsack
tim_lebsack

re: "of any regulation beneficial to taxis"

What regulations are beneficial to taxis??

 

RhetoricalQuestion
RhetoricalQuestion

Ah, corrupt liberal city policies strike again.

Uber sounds fantastic, it is a real 'power to the people' application. 

Admonkey
Admonkey

If the COD & Yellow Cab really want to take Uber on, it's going to become courtroom-expensive as hell for both Yellow Cab owner Jack Bewley and the City of Dallas taxpayers: 

Taxi & limo service is a $10bn/yr industry in the U.S., but Uber has equity funding of $307MM— an equity funding number that equates to a little over 3% of the entire domestic industry.

I'm guessing Uber can, and will, eventually out-lawyer both the city and Bewley (fairly easily in fact), particularly over an antitrust issue that seems like a real "duh" moment to anyone who reads two paragraphs on it.

And the Council Members who get on the wrong side are going to have to explain exactly why they voted the way they did— and put the city finances farther into the lawsuit hole— just because Yellow Cab once spread some small-time cash around the old general election campaign and lobbying fund.

pak152
pak152

so when will the po-po do a sting operation on Yellow Cab et al making suring they are following all the regulations?

mdd0124
mdd0124

On Sunday, after the pride parade (more like 11:30 PM), I was tired, a little drunk, and ready to go home. I walked up to a cab outside S4, and asked if he'd take me home (Knox-Henderson area). He flat-out refused, and told me he was waiting for a bigger fare, and to ask another cab. 

My phone had 1% battery, but I was able to pull up Uber, a cab came in less than 3 minutes, and I was home in less than 10.

That is why #DallasNeedsUber.

mrarmyant
mrarmyant

Yellow Cab just released an iPhone app for Dallas.  I wonder if they would also face the same 30 minute wait, however it frequently takes 30 minutes to get a cab and I live in Oaklawn...

cjbwalton
cjbwalton

What is the status of the search for a new City Manager? Interim City Manager Gonzales is NOT the right person for the job.

BettyC1
BettyC1

Some new Council members are actually reading their agendas.Good for them.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

I have experienced too many bad taxi experiences. To name a mere 3 of many: trying to refuse a DFW pickup for interteminal transfer; driving under the influence (the cab crashed into a parked car when it arrived at my destination--the driver asked me to be a witness to his sobriety, I suggested I would not be a helpful witness--he was drinking, but used many anyway--I said he appeared intoxicated and smelled like whiskey); and crashed my car when doing a U turn across four lanes in from of the Fairmount--trying to catch a fair. And forget trying to schedule a cab to get to the airport on time.

Never a problem with Uber.

whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

Once we have 2 or more folks in our car and travel from M streets to Uptown or Downtown - Uber is cheaper, and nicer. Its a no brainer. There is nothing like getting in a cab and before its left the curb the driver has hit fee after fee after extra fee, none of which makes sense.

Also I wish the COD would stop talking about how they care about our safety - they don't and plus we can all read the waiver we sign when we join.

NightSand
NightSand

Instead of the Cabs fighting and giving money to the criminals on City Council, why not create their own app with the same function, but make the fares cheaper?   The reason Uber works is because they give you an exact time they will arrive, they actually do arrive, they take credit cards without a fight and generally know where they are in the city... not to mention their cars are all clean and don't smell bad.   

  I use Cowboy Cab a lot and have had pretty pleasant experiences with them, but Uber tops them, though it is more expensive.  

hentai.jeff
hentai.jeff

@RhetoricalQuestion if you want to assign the term liberal to a side in this debate, it's actually on uber, need only look at their funding for that one.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@pak152 All one has to do is stand on a corner in the CBD and you could witness all kinds of unsafe for the public actions by any number of cabs

pak152
pak152

@mdd0124 did you get the cab number and report his refusal?


jocktop
jocktop

@mdd0124 isn't it illegal for them to refuse a fair? My drunken friend yelled his way into a cab that tried to pull this after a ranger's game, just because we wanted to go to some arlington bars nearby, not drive all the way to dallas.

lakewoodhobo
lakewoodhobo

@whocareswhatithink Plus you can split fares with Uber. Try getting a cab driver to take one credit card, and imagine the look on his face if you asked him to take two of them!

Dub919
Dub919

@ScottsMerkin @pak152 Yep.  I walk around downtown often...and the only time I've ever come close to being hit by a car was by a Yellow cab who was speeding through a red light.

Or, you could just sit at the Love Field entrance portion of Cedar Springs.  The road becomes a 30mph zone about halfway through with a radar sign indicating your speed.  I got passed by Yellow and Executive at that spot today...both were going at least 62 mph (which is what the sign indicated).

pak152
pak152

@ScottsMerkin @pak152 but if i or you witness them our account is apocryphal, but if the po-po does it we have a record that can be used.

kimsearley
kimsearley

@jocktop @mdd0124  Cabs refuse fares all the time...I live near DFW Airport and when I come in at an "off" hour, they refuse to take me home.  Finally, I just hired a car service. It's not worth the stress to deal with them!

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@lakewoodhobo OMG, We had a cabbie that was actually going to take a credit card, then when he saw 2, mysteriously the machine suddenly didnt work lol

brantley.hargrove1
brantley.hargrove1

@ScottsMerkin @tim_lebsack Things like freezing the number of operating licenses issued, followed by allowing fleet increases so the majors can increase their hold on the market. Things like that.

 
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