Watch the short documentary, “Uber Wars: How D.C. Tried to Kill a Great New Ride Technology”
by Max Fawcett
Calgary isn’t the only market where Uber has had to navigate around existing bylaws that seem designed to keep them from operating there. In Vancouver, the same flat-rate provision for limousine rides that Calgary has – it’s $75 in Vancouver – prevented Uber from opening up shop there. Just as it did in Calgary, Uber took its campaign to the people, encouraging frustrated Vancouverites to user the #UberVanLove hashtag to express their feelings and suggesting they email Mayor Gregor Robertson, B.C. Minister of Transportation Mary Polak and Premier Christy Clark.
And while that strategy hasn’t produced any changes to the bylaws in either Vancouver or Calgary (yet), it’s one that’s worked for the company in other markets. In Washington, D.C., after lawmakers there considered passing a law in 2012 that would make Uber sedans cost five times the price of a cab – that is, until the company’s fans drowned those same lawmakers in emails and tweets. In “Uber Wars: How D.C. Tried to Kill a Great New Ride Technology,” a short documentary on the battle between D.C. lawmakers and Uber that was released in 2013, the Washington Post’s Mike Debonais described the campaign as “amazingly effective.”
The documentary had it all: obstructionist local officials, self-interested industry shills, Marion Barry (yes, that Marion Barry) and the creation of new red tape that’s clearly designed to make it as difficult as possible for Uber to do business in the District of Columbia. One of those prohibits the use of smaller vehicles, which will prevent Uber from rolling out its Uber-X service which uses hybrid vehicles.
As the documentary’s host Rob Montz asks near the end, “What exactly is going on here? Why is it that the local DC regulators are hell-bent on still trying to fix something that shows no signs that it needs to be fixed. You might think that’s because some local entrenched taxi cab industry representatives have co-opted key lawmakers and are trying to use the power of public policy to block out competition. You would be correct.”