While Yellow Cab Was Ratting on Uber, Uber Was Ratting on Lyft to Set Up uberX
We've all seen those desperate emails that Yellow Cab sent to Dallas City Hall last summer, using its influence there to demand that officials crack down on Uber, the digital-savvy car service. Poor Uber, the narrative went, just a little start-up under assault by the entrenched taxi industry.
But when another, even smaller transportation service called Lyft came to town in September, it was Uber that was ratting to City Hall.
"Dear Council Member, I wanted to reach out to make you aware of a new type of service being offered in Dallas," Uber Dallas' General Manager Leandre Johns wrote to city officials in September 2013, according to an email obtained by the Observer.
Lyft, Johns wrote, "purports themselves as being similar to Uber yet isn't in that they do not partner with legal, licensed and permitted drivers in the city. Rather, their model, known as 'ride-sharing,' uses non-licensed individuals to transport citizens."
Lyft uses regular drivers who give rides in their own private cars. (As Eric reported this morning, it's a service that comes with tricky questions about insurance.) Uber, on the other hand, claims to only work with professional limousine services that already have commercial licenses with the city.
Johns' email about Lyft isn't nearly as malicious as those Yellow Cab emails targeting Uber. (Choice quote from Yellow Cab: "Come on, get DPD to write tickets to Uber or stop charging permits to the cab company's!")
But Johns did let City Council know that Lyft appeared to be skirting the city's confusing transportation regulations. And if Lyft was going to keep getting away with that, then Uber should be allowed to have a chunk of that market, as well. Hence, uberX.
"I have sought clarity on the city's position of this type of service, and have been met with little to no response as to whether enforcement will occur. This creates some regulatory ambiguity. So I have drafted up a blog post that communicates our intent to launch our own ridesharing option, uberX."
UberX is the company's direct competition to Lyft -- a low-cost ride-sharing app that allows drivers to use their personal cars. In his email to council members, Johns included a draft of a blog post explaining that Uber is only bringing uberX to Dallas after an unnamed, other company has started offering "non-commercially licensed rides" first.
(A published version of that blog post introducing uberX doesn't mention the competition or the regulatory ambiguity).
Johns referred our questions about his email to an Uber spokesman. We're still waiting for a response. Meanwhile, here's the email in full:
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.