A few weeks ago, I wrote about Alabama’s failure to create opportunity for Uber, a popular ride-sharing service, to operate. I was particularly hard on the Birmingham City Council for their response to the issue.

Birmingham City Councilor Kim Rafferty responded to the article by sending me an email defending the council’s actions. One strong sentiment she shared was that Uber demonstrated “disrespect for the very governmental regulatory measures we have in place to protect public safety and ensure fair play by business in general, as it pertains to licensure, conduct, permitting and transparency.”

The business model of ride-sharing services necessarily pushes government regulators to reevaluate their rules. If there is a new type of entity in any economic sector, the rules probably need an update. That much should not come as a surprise to Rafferty or any other government official dealing with a novel issue.

Rafferty also stated that Uber “wants to be fully independent of regulatory measures yet they have not shown where they are adequately self-regulating successfully.”

If Uber and other ride-sharing services were such strident opponents of all regulation, then how are they operating successfully in cities like San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle? Nobody would consider any of those cities as “deregulated” environments. So what makes Birmingham different?

The Birmingham City Council seems to be missing the point that crafting updated regulations to accommodate a new business model is not the same as deregulation. The city should be bending over backwards to welcome ride-sharing and reevaluate burdensome regulations that have little impact on public safety.

For example, what does having an ordinance requiring a $45 minimum for an “executive sedan” have to do with keeping consumers safe? Why do ride-sharing services that respond to actual immediate demand need to wait for a city council resolution of “public necessity and convenience?” Is there a particular reason why ride-sharing services, which let drivers use their own cars, need to have a “terminal” for their operations?

Most people can see that there is a big difference between pushing for no regulation and expecting that regulations make sense. Rather than trying to balance public safety with accommodating a new business model, the Birmingham City Council has attempted to wedge the novel ride-sharing concept into the same outdated transportation framework. In the process, they have managed to treat an emerging class of transportation businesses as little more than outlaws in a city that needs better commuting options and an economic boost.

Featured Publications