Don't Kill Uber With Regulations

On Uber

BY ANDREA SEAGER SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY SEP 7, 2015

Every time I called a cab for a guest at my motel in Bradenton on Interstate-75, I was told there would be a minimum of a 40-minute wait time. Eventually, a nasty vehicle with dents and a smoking, unshaven driver would pull up to take my guest a couple miles down the road. UGH.

We need to make sure new concepts such as Uber are welcomed rather than regulated out of business. Uber provides background checks and insurance. Drivers are rated and dumped if they are rude or cars are dirty. The consumer knows exactly how much they are paying in advance. The taxi lobby around the world advocates for rude drivers with filthy vehicles who will gladly overcharge a tourist, all in the name of consumer protection. 

The hotel industry was turned on its ear with the arrival of TripAdvisor's customer reviews and travel agency websites such as Expedia and Booking.com.  Guest satisfaction improved dramatically across the industry, and those who chose not to improve their service and physical plant or use the new booking engines were left behind. 

My husband ran a tiny pedicab (bicycle taxi) company in Downtown Sarasota for several years. A special 15-page ordinance was created for pedicabs by the City of Sarasota. The taxi medallions, insurance, vehicle inspections, miscellaneous business licenses, taxes, fees and an unfortunate federal tax classification totaled thousands of dollars per year and created such a regulatory circus that he gave up.   

Are we screaming that Amazon purchase a business license and pay special vendor fees and taxes in Sarasota to sell us a book? Amazon is licensed and pays insurance and taxes where their corporate offices and warehouses are located. The City of Sarasota has no need to get between me and my book purchase. Similarly, the City of Sarasota does not need to add fees, taxes, additional insurance requirements and regulatory hurdles to a system that works beautifully across the globe for car sharing services. Have the City Attorney check Uber's insurance policies and approve them. Demand that the City of Sarasota be listed as an additional insured and get out of the way. 

We as a community need to wake up and do everything in our power to encourage entrepreneurs, especially young ones working with new technology we may not fully understand. We need to retain the talent and brilliance that is coming out of Ringling, New College and our other institutions of higher learning. We need to create a space where it is safe to create the future, not regulate ideas to death because we are afraid of changing the status quo.

It is time to embrace technology and the sharing economy and move forward!

Andrea Seager, Sarasota

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