Although our airport, for years an embarrassment, has finally been upgraded to meet modern standards, Miami-Dade's taxi service continues to embarrass. Cabs in bad shape and unfriendly drivers are the rule, not the exception.
Enter Uber. This past Memorial Day weekend, my family and I traveled to Washington D.C. One of our sons, who attends school in the area, turned us on to Uber. It is a terrific system. You download the Uber app and you're ready to start calling for rides immediately.
The cars were all in great shape, especially the black-car service, the drivers were unfailingly polite and courteous, the cars showed up on time and the fares were very competitive. The app allows the passengers to rate the drivers, and the rating appears on the Uber app. It also tells you how close the car is to you. And, at the end of your ride, your Uber account gets billed and you don't have to worry about making payment to the driver. You simply step out of the cab and thank the driver who, incidentally, has probably already thanked you for riding with him or her — imagine that!
I agree with the Miami-Dade taxicab industry on one thing: It is right to fear competition from Uber and similar services. Competition, however, is actually a good thing. This is not a matter of subjecting the taxi industry to unfair burdens in order to compete.
The stark fact is that the taxi industry in most major cities has evolved with the times, while ours has not. That is why, when one can use credit cards to pay for cabs in other major cities, there was a huge battle earlier this year to require cabs here to start taking them, and then only in the next two years.
It took years for MIA to improve in spite of Miami-Dade politics. Remember when it was the only major U.S. airport without baggage carts? But instead of improving to effectively compete, the taxi industry continues to use its political influence, such as campaign contributions, to thwart competition and reform, the residents be damned.
Thus, it was not a surprise to read that, after refusing to license Uber, our county government is actually fining it for operating. Sadly, it looks like our politicians — with few notable exceptions such as Mayor Carlos Gimenez — continue to be guided by their self-interest (campaign coffers) rather than by what is best for the residents who elected them.
At the end of the day, that is the high fare that all in the community must pay.
Carlos M. Sires, Pinecrest