In just five short years, Uber has changed car travel, taxi service, and transportation in much of the world, and particularly in cities and towns without reliable public transport or good cab service. In New York City, the company has delivered more than 30 million rides—at least several of which were taken Quoted contributors and editors. As we’ve become accustomed to having a ride available at the tips of our thumbs, many of us have come to take the service for granted.
But with the rapid expansion of the company, many local and national governments have balked at Uber’s policies and safety regulations, and several have either blocked Uber from starting in their area, halted service altogether, or created too many hoops for the ride-sharing company. It’s a startling prospect, particularly if you’re one of the many who’ve come to rely on the service. In recent months, several news outlets have reported Uber suspensions and outright bannings from San Antonio to Seoul, and Eugene to Anchorage. But where exactly has Uber been banned, and why? And could it happen in your city? Quoted is on the case with a round-up:
Cities and countries that recently suspended service:
From wintry-cold Anchorage, Alaska to sunny San Antonio, Texas, from the bustling streets of Seoul, to rainy Eugene, Oregon—in recent months, these governments have suspended Uber, or banned the service altogether.
Wednesday, March 4, 2015: San Antonio
In early March, Uber followed through on almost a year of threats to leave the seventh most populous city in the US. After less than a year of Alamo City operations, Uber officially closed up shop on April 1, 2015—the date a new ordinance set forth by the town council will go into effect. Uber argues the ordinance is “one of the most burdensome in the nation.” Among the reasons for their exit, Uber cited excessive insurance requirements, driver background checks, and many municipal regulations the company sees as redundant with their own requirements. The San Antonio Current explains that Uber “affirm[s] they are a technology company that provides a platform to facilitate rides-sharing by connecting drivers and riders,” and therefore see themselves as exempt from the typical regulations imposed upon transportation companies, like taxi services. More than 13,000 San Antonio residents signed a petition urging the town council to loosen regulation so Uber would stay, and Mayor Ivy Taylor asserts that the council made many compromises and that Uber made the choice to leave—San Antonio didn’t ban them. For its part, Uber’s Texas manager, Chris Nakutis, blames the city for “kill[ing] thousands of jobs.” Regardless, San Antonio’s 1.3 million residents will soon be without smart-phone accessible transportation
Thursday, March 5th, 2015: Eugene, Oregon
In a reversal, the city of Eugene took a stand against the ride-sharing giant, suing them and asking the court to force Uber to suspend operations until the company meets their required safety regulations, reports The Huffington Post. Members of the Eugene government contend that Uber drivers must meet city regulations, which means they must have proof of insurance, submit to background checks by the local police, and provide proof of their mechanical inspection. In a theme that’s becoming familiar, Uber argues their drivers already meet these requirements based on Uber’s own company policy and safety rules. Brooke Steger, Uber’s General Manager for the Pacific Northwest, had some strong words for city officials, saying “While jurisdictions across the country, including neighbors like Vancouver and Portland, work to craft regulations that ensure public safety and embrace ridesharing, Eugene city leaders decided to hide behind bureaucratic red tape.”
Friday, March 6, 2015: Anchorage, Alaska:
Another city, another tussle with Uber. After nearly five months of free rides—a work-around Uber implemented after a judge ruled that customers paying for their rides would violate the city’s taxi ordinance—Uber decided to suspend service in Alaska’s largest city until disagreements can be settled—something the company decided was taking too long. Uber’s Anchorage decision resembles their decision in San Antonio—the company will negotiate, to a point, and if their needs aren’t met, they take a hardline and halt operations, or move out altogether. The words of Anchorage’s mayor, Dan Sullivan, mirror those of San Antonio’s mayor. Sullivan says Uber’s decision “Should not be attributed to inaction by the municipality as the process has been continuous and a path forward has been established by the Assembly.” Sounds like our neighbors to the north are hoping to come to an agreement with Uber, giving their residents access to the modern transportation option.
Recent International Developments:
Uber has run into some friction in international markets lately, too. On March 6th, the Financial Times reported that Uber had suspended its South Korean service after failing to reach an agreement with local officials. The major sticking points for officials in Seoul appear to be that Uber drivers do not have commercial licenses, and the unhappy state of the taxi industry. March 6th was really not a good day for Uber: Japan shut down Uber’s pilot ride-sharing program on that date because drivers did not have taxi licenses, something the government found illegal.
These instances of recent trouble in Uber-paradise are by no means comprehensive—check here for setbacks over the years—but they do provide a snapshot of the struggles Uber has had of late.
So, could Uber leave your city, too? If your area has already come to an agreement with Uber, there’s a good chance the policies will stand and your ride-sharing services will continue to run smoothly. However, if there’s friction among your municipality’s leaders and Uber, you’ll want to keep your eye out for service disruptions. Remember, you can get involved in your local government, if you’re so moved.
The old adage holds here: There are two sides to every story, and Uber and local governments across the country and globe who are unsure about the company are each doing their best to spin public opinion to their side. We at Quoted wonder what you think: Should Uber work harder to placate local officials in every market they enter, or should local governments embrace the ride-sharing company and relax their regulations?