All Commentary
Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Government, Stop Trying to “Help” Uber

Ridesharing doesn't need more regulation

An open letter to Maryland State Senator Bill Ferguson and Delegate Kathy Szeliga.

Dear legislators,

Thank you for your commentary, “Give ridesharing a home in Maryland,” in the Baltimore Sun.

While it is gratifying to have elected officials recognize the benefits of ridesharing, it is unsettling that you want to do something — pass some legislation — to help maintain those benefits.

You write that, “Ridesharing … uses a technology that did not exist even just a few short years ago, and so the rules that govern this innovative model simply were not developed.”

That’s mistaken. The essential rules governing all kinds of businesses are long-established: keep your promises, operate in a safe manner, respect others and their property. Likewise the rules pertinent to road transport: drive on the right, signal before turning, maintain your vehicle, and so on.

Driven by their desire for more satisfied customers  and hence more business and more revenue — Uber and Lyft have established additional rules about insurance requirements, drivers’ customer-satisfaction ratings, vehicle age, vehicle cleanliness, the responsibility to pick up all qualified riders, and response times. They are constantly evolving their rules, pricing, and services in response to public demand and desire.

Where is evidence that ridesharing requires any additional legislated rules?

You write (somewhat enviously?) that, “Officials in other states and jurisdictions have crafted new laws to make certain ridesharing remains a long-term option in the transportation marketplace.”

But wait a minute: won’t ridesharing remain an option as long as people like it and the legislature permits them to use it? What would “new laws” add?

You say proudly that you “have introduced a regulatory framework that would create a permanent home for Uber, Lyft and other ridesharing options across the entire state.”

Why do we need that? After all, you have made clear that ridesharing already has a home here: “Ridesharing … has been embraced by thousands of consumers and entrepreneurs.” But it’s one created by consumers, not regulators, and sustained by the companies’ incentive and ability to satisfy them.

Ridesharing started, grew up, and flourished all without governments’ noticing. To help it thrive, the Maryland legislature should keep doing what it has been doing—nothing.