17 Mar Uber, Welcome to Martinez! But for how long?
Way to go Martinez! Ridesharing company Uber has opened a new regional center downtown at the corner of Escobar and Berrylessa. The Uber Activation Center provides vehicle inspections, driver training, and runs background checks on all prospective new Uber drivers, plus re-certifies them annually. What a terrific score for our town!
The center rents a big chunk of a Downtown block, and hired several center employees that now lunch and shop Downtown. Plus it attracts 30 to 50 Uber drivers a day, seven days a week. That is more than 1,000 new people coming to our city and discovering its charm every month. The Martinez Uber center is the only one in Contra Costa County, and attracts drivers as far away as Pleasanton and Davis. Plus all these drivers have to come back in a year to get re-certified.
This is a good thing for Martinez, our merchants, and our property values. Since they have been here, Uber has improved the property and repaved the parking lot. A neighborhood served by Uber will thrive better than one that does not have reliable, clean, safe, affordable transportation.
To have a high-tech, disruptive, green, growing, and innovative company like Uber investing in Martinez is a good sign. Perhaps we can attract more tech and dotcom businesses with our charms.
Ironically, this week our City Council voted unanimously, 5-0, to explore joining a County-wide group of cities to centrally regulate all taxicab services. Specifically including services like Uber and Lyft, calling for them to be licensed like old failing taxis. Martinez already has pages of taxicab regulations on the books to regulate our few taxis. We LOSE money joining this project. The effort and resources needed from the City to join this county-wide Joint Powers Authority for taxicab and ridesharing regulation will cost more man-hours than we currently spend. At best it will save the City a few hundred dollars a year, but at the same time have our Police hassling ride-share drivers over taxi medallions, rather than busting bad guys.
The Council, Police Department, and City staff want to spend time on investigating this project when we have REAL issues to work on. I hope they do not plan to manage Uber as well as they have managed the Marina, fixing our roads, hiring City Managers, the seismic retrofit, and invigorating Main Street.
Walnut Creek and Concord (both with big taxi companies) are leading this effort to gang-up as a region and extort Uber and Lyft. This is a clumsy attempt by Government to protect their taxicab company buddies. Btw, the county and other cities subsidize their existing taxicab companies with hundreds of thousands in grants and contracts. How much of that comes back to their officials looking to shut down Uber? This is NOT a fight for Martinez to bother with.
Our City Councilmembers will claim the resolution they unanimously passed “only effects taxicabs”. And this is true. But it is also true that Transportation Network Companies (TNC) are lumped in with cab companies, and every Uber and Lyft vehicle defined as a taxicab. Bureaucrats that currently regulate the smelly, beat up, slow, gas guzzling, inefficient, failing, taxicabs, want to take over the licensing of green, neat, efficient, polite, affordable and productive car services. It ain’t broke; nothing here to fix.
The reason Uber is so pleasant is because they are NOT micromanaged by bureaucrats. They have to compete for their riders, and put safety, cleanliness, and service as priorities. TNCs are already self regulated, PLUS they are additionally regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission.
The ultimate regulation of services like Lyft and Uber is the rating system powered by passenger reviews. My friend is a driver and he works extra hard, keeps his car super-clean, and provides tissues, water, and mints to passengers, all to get a 5-star review.
Old taxicab companies relied on their government enforced monopolies via taxi medallions to ensure they would limit competition. Now this County project wants to limit Ubers, via limited Taxi medallions, and drive innovation out of Martinez and the County. Fedex and Email offered competition to the US Postal service; Uber and Lyft out competed the old taxi industry. Government should not prop up failing ideas.
On the bright side, the taxicab regulation project will not be finalized (after hundreds of bureaucratic man-hours) until early 2017. We have two seats on City Council up for replacement this year, and we can elect officials who respect private sector success and will not waste time meddling.
Uber is safe, well regulated, and great for our community. The local Uber Activation Center is part of their process to screen drivers and inspect vehicles. Leave Uber alone. We don’t need more government intervention. Martinez should instead focus on regulating crime or pot-holes here at home.
For your reference, the Taxicab JPA was proposed and sponsored by the Chiefs of Police of Concord and Walnut Creek, and the Contra Costa County Public Manager’s Association. Below is the exact text of the project:
Contra Costa County Regional Taxi and Online Transportation Services Project
a) Within Contra Costa County there is a high demand for taxi services and online application based transportation services that are occuring in a largely unregulated industry with inherent risks to public safety. In addition to the largely uncontrolled/unregulated taxi services, there is unprecedented growth in the unregulated online application based transportation companies such as Uber and Lift. While a few cities within CCC have a regulated taxi program, the majority of the County is largely unregulated resulting in unsafe vehicles, unlicensed drivers, lack of appropriate insurance, and drivers with criminal backgrounds. Additionally, there are currently no requirements at the county or city level for application based transportation services.
b) This project would create a Retional Taxi and Transportation Program to regulare and reflect the rapidly growing popularity of the application based companies, the needs of the taxi industry, and more important, the safety of our citizens and visitors.
c) Our Project goal is to unify transportation services within the county resulting in a one permit process that would serve the entire region with regulated guidelines and enforement. Annually, or more frequent if warranted, all drivers would pass a criminal background check, driver license check, vehicle inspection, and insurance verification. The number of permitted vehicles and drivers would be based on populations studies and community needs.