When it comes to an inviting regulatory environment for transportation innovators like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, Nashville is the best city in the nation.

According to a report recently released by the R Street Institute, a free-market think tank based in Washington, Nashville has commonsense ridesharing regulation with few of the hostile rules adopted in other jurisdictions that serve to restrict access.

In fact, the only negatives about Nashville’s regulatory environment were insurance requirements during the periods when a driver is matched with and actively transporting a fare that are slightly high. Nashville’s overall score of 97 was two points higher than Memphis and a full 12 points higher than Atlanta.

As a native son of Tennessee, born in Memphis and raised outside of Nashville, I’ve seen the benefits of Nashville’s entrepreneurial streak. Whether it’s the hustle of the music industry or the fast pace of change in the health care and software sectors, Nashville has never shied from change.  In that sense, R Street’s report isn’t surprising.

Yet Nashville’s welcoming and accommodating attitude toward innovative business models shouldn’t be taken lightly.   Over the past several years, I’ve called Alabama home.  Just a few hours down I-65, Birmingham serves as a sharp contrast to Nashville’s willingness to shake up the marketplace to meet the needs of its residents.

Birmingham’s City Council recently was dragged kicking and screaming into the modern age transportation network companies. Even as part of the new ordinance they passed a few weeks ago, they only permitted a six-month operating period, after which the new rules and market operations will be re-evaluated.

The difference in attitude between the two cities couldn’t be any more pronounced. One is finding ways to grow and bring in new industry; the other is offering one excuse after another as to why a technological convenience embraced by cities across America isn’t acceptable for its citizens.

As Nashville literally is struggling to find enough people to fill all the jobs it is creating, more than 30 percent of Birmingham’s population suffers in poverty.

That’s the difference between pursuing policies that encourage creative business models and competition and stubbornly preserving the status quo for fear of the unknown. It’s a simple distinction, but it makes all the difference in the world.

While my R Street colleagues and I happily tip our hat to Nashville’s success in crafting positive transportation regulations, I’m secretly hoping that some of the city’s eye to innovation makes its way a little further south.

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