For years Miami has had some of the worst transportation laws in the nation, preventing small entrepreneurs with sedan cars and limousines from competing with taxi cabs. These anti-competitive laws have long denied drivers the right to earn an honest living and deprived passengers of better service. Earlier this month the Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners took the first steps to repealing the most onerous of those restrictions.
For small entrepreneurs, driving a car for hire is a simple way to achieve the American Dream. It doesn’t take much capital, only determination and a willingness to work hard. In dozens of major U.S. and European cities, independent taxi and sedan owners are able to compete with the biggest cab and limo companies to offer the best service to riders using smart phone apps with names like Uber, Hailo and Flywheel. Washington, D.C., and New York have recently eliminated regulations that stifled the services, but in Miami the apps have been effectively illegal and sedan car drivers have had no way to compete directly with taxis for business.
The law now forces you to take a taxi if you need an immediate ride. You can’t use a limo or sedan unless you call to arrange the ride at least an hour before you need the car, which is an inconvenience designed solely to protect cab companies from competition. If you want a sedan or a limo, you have to pay a minimum fare of $70. In dozens of other cities, however, a sedan using a smart phone app will charge you a minimum of one tenth that by using the phone’s GPS to calculate a fare by time and distance just like a taxi meter. If sedan and limo drivers are willing to accept less, why should the law make you pay more?
Opponents of the change, mainly the taxi cartels, say that without limiting the number of cabs by law there will be “too much capacity”— too many cars and drivers. No one will be able to make a living, they argue, and soon there will be no cabs to serve the public at all. That is nonsense.
It’s both wrong and unconstitutional for local governments to place burdensome restrictions on entrepreneurs merely to protect existing businesses from competition.
That’s not how government power is supposed to be used.
The evidence from every other city that allows smart phone apps to dispatch cars and allows cabs and sedans to compete for business is that doing the right thing also leads to the best results for both drivers and passengers.
Entrepreneurs and passengers will both be better off if needless transportation regulations are repealed.
Larry Salzman, attorney,
Institute for Justice, Arlington, Va.