Miami-Dade taxi market needs competition

Miami Herald


Miami has some of the most restrictive and anti-competitive transportation laws in the nation.

In Miami today, if you request a car service outside of the regulated taxi market and it arrives to pick you up in 15 minutes, by law you must wait an additional 45 minutes before you are legally allowed to begin your trip. If you enter the vehicle before waiting the requisite hour, the car can be impounded and the driver fined. In addition to the wait-time requirement, the minimum fare is $80 — no matter the distance of the trip.

Furthermore, there is an artificial cap placed on the number of sedans allowed to operate in Miami-Dade County. These outdated rules are imposing extreme limits on consumer choice and driver opportunity, preventing Miami residents from using one of the hottest and fastest growing Internet start-ups in the country: Uber.

Uber is an innovative car-for-hire app that connects drivers with riders for on-demand transportation. The company is operating in 42 cities worldwide, but Miami’s antiquated regulations are preventing the company from bringing its service to the area. Not surprisingly, established taxicab companies, which have been shielded from competition for years, are fighting to keep their sweetheart deal, to the detriment of their own drivers, consumers and the reputation of the city.

Uber uses the Internet to connect riders with drivers, much the same way that Expedia connects airlines with would-be flyers. It’s cashless, with users’ credit-card information stored on the app. And it’s interactive, allowing riders to rate their drivers, improving the quality of its service.

Uber showcases what an innovative company can do to promote competition and drive economic growth and job creation. Uber’s Internet-enabled platform has revolutionized urban transportation options for riders, drivers and cities across the world. If the Miami taxi market had true competition, we would not see these current barriers that deter innovative progress in this great city.

Competition in the marketplace is good for consumers. It keeps prices low while increasing the quality and choice of services. It also encourages businesses to innovate, bringing new and better products and services to the market. In markets without competition — like Miami-Dade’s transportation sector — stagnation, poor service and high prices are the norm.

All regulation is not bad. Consumer protection is a vital function of regulators and rules ensuring safety, preventing fraud and deterring abuse are most certainly in the public interest. However, in Miami-Dade, we confront a perverse situation in which the current rules are stacked to protect incumbent operators from new competition while limiting consumer choice. That’s a lose-lose proposition.

Miami-Dade County leaders have the opportunity to show their constituents and the world that they are willing to stand up for the future of Miami. Soon, the Miami-Dade County Commission will consider a package of reforms designed to modernize the city’s antiquated laws and regulations.

If enacted, Miami-Dade County will be the first major city in the United States to begin proactively unwinding its anti-competitive taxi regulations that have imposed unreasonable constraints on consumer choice and small business growth. The package of reforms, sponsored by Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, would be a great step forward for consumers and small business innovation alike — and a strong signal to Miami’s growing startup community that the county is open for business.

Bringing competition to Miami’s transportation market will result in more choices, better prices and higher quality. Internet start-ups like Uber are driving economic growth and job creation in cities all over the world. Why should Miami be left behind? County commissioners should not let the anti-competitive needs of a few take precedence over the needs of their constituents, the county’s drivers and this world-class city’s continued growth.

Michael Beckerman is president and CEO of The Internet Association, which represents leading Internet companies, including Facebook, Google, Uber Technologies, Inc., Yahoo! and others.

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