No, it does not refer to young girls being taken across territorial lines for purposes of prostitution. Rather, a new form of transportation. Uber. Same name as the company.
Uber is a whole new concept in shuttling people around who need transportation from one point to another. Similar to a cab. Yet not a cab. So claims Uber.
Uber had its beginnings in 2009 in San Francisco. One of its its founders, Travis Kalanick, is CEO. Senior Vice President is David Plouffe. Plouffe is an experienced political operative. Plouffe was one of Obama’s chief political strategists. He knows how to mobilize political support.
Uber refers to itself a new type transit provider, a transportation network company. Technologically driven. If one needs a ride and has a smart phone, the process is simple. There is an app on the phone. Push a button and a vehicle shows up to take you where you want to go. The slogan, Tap an App. Generally quicker and at half the price of a cab.
Uber has grown dramatically since 2009. Money initially was invested by outsiders in the millions. Now in the billions. Uber is presently valued at $41 billion. By the end of 2015, it is anticipated further billion dollar investments will be made. Uber’s value is expected to rise to $50 billion.
Uber presently operates in over 300 cities covering six continents.
Uber does not screw around when it wants to do business in a State or City. It generally either comes in unannounced or gives a city a reasonable amount of time to make up its mind that Uber can do business. If a city says no, Uber literally storms in with an army of lobbyists and lawyers. Sharp elbows the order of the day.
Most states/cities have rules regarding cab services. Uber says it is not a cab. It also says it cannot wait months or years for local laws to be cleaned up so they can operate. Regardless of size, few cities can play tough for only so long with a $41 billion company accustomed to getting its way.
Uber’s primary tool is the power of back room lobbying. The art of political influence. The reason Plouffe is on board.
Uber has a presence in almost every State house. Two hundred fifty lobbyists and 29 lobbying firms in State capitols. One third more than Walmart.
Uber has expanded internationally also.
Uber has a local rules be damned attitude. They are experienced, know what is legal, what the law permits. They have a package that sets forth steps necessary so it can operate in an area. The troops are sent in to get things done if local cooperation is not forthcoming. The troops all heavy hitters. Well connected.
Portland, Oregon was a problem. Uber hired Dan Bates to lobby for the company. Bates was Portland’s lobbyist in the capitol. In Kansas, Uber used Governor Sam Brownbeck’s former campaign manager as its lobbyist. The man was also a lobbyist working for KOCH industries at the time. In Connecticut, Uber hired the House Speaker’s firm. In Illinois, a former Governor’s Chief of Staff.
Examples of how Uber spends its money promotion wise include the State of Texas. In 2013, Uber had no registered lobbyists in Texas. In 2014, 14. Thus far in 2015, 28. Lobbyist contracts are speculated to cost Uber for 2015 in the area of $420,000-$945,000. More money than Philip Morris or Pfizer spends.
In 2014 in Maryland, Uber paid its lobbyists $208,000. In California, $684,000. Uber spent $600,000 in a Seattle referendum. Lobbying efforts cost them for city purposes alone in Washington, DC, $314,000.
The Philippines approved Uber in May. The Nevada Assembly passed a bill in May legalizing Uber service. It is expected the legislation will pass easily the Senate and be signed by the Governor.
Paris itself and France a war. Both presently oppose Uber. Paris taxi drivers a strong political influence. They struck to express their opposition. The Netherlands, Italy, Indonesia and South Korea are investigating Uber and obtaining court ordered bans against the company. I question how long these countries can hold out against Uber. Especially the Asian ones. Billions of Chinese dollars are invested in the company.
Taxi drivers in many places make $6 an hour. In those same places, Uber drivers earn $16 an hour. Some taxi companies require drivers to pay upfront costs each day. Approximately $175. The first $175 taken in goes to the company to cover the cost of the vehicle, dispatch costs and insurance costs. Then the driver makes money for himself. Could be as much as $200 a day or significantly less.
Taxi drivers and taxi companies are the one’s opposing Uber. Customers generally like Uber’s service. Quicker and cheaper. Uber knows how to get the populace on its side and to continue supporting the company after it is allowed to work in a city. Petitions are used. As in politics. People love Uber and are happy to sign petitions supporting Uber’s aims.
This is not the Biblical David and Goliath situation. Cities are the David’s. They cannot stand up to the Goliath Uber.
This brings me to Key West. Since December 14 last year, there have been Uber vehicles operating in Key West. Local cab companies raised hell. Key West stood for their locals. Not realizing the people working with Uber were generally locals also.
Key West has an ordinance requiring passenger vehicles for hire to have a decal or permit authorizing their use as same. A violation of the ordinance is a crime. A misdemeanor. The penalty a fine of $200 and/or up to sixty days in jail.
Key West invoked the ordinance. Two undercover Key West police officers arrested two drivers. Their cases are pending. Local authorities also have warned that as of July 1, all persons violating the law will be arrested.
There are four cab companies in Key West. The number of permits is 56 or 74. I could not determine the actual number. The four companies own all the permits. There is no room for a new type transportation company. Assuming the ordinance applies to Uber.
Uber is not a bad guy. It is a good company that discovered a new way of operating a transportation business. A way that provides cheaper prices and quicker pick up time to customers.
Uber does play hard ass. It could not stay in business if they had to screw around ad infinitum with different local and State ordinances to get their business going in a particular locality. Uber has invented the better mouse trap. They come into a community and say we have something new and better. Which they do. This is what we would like to do and we know how to do it.
Key West in fighting Uber is merely putting off the inevitable. Uber succeeds in the end because it understands its business. Legally and other wise.
Key West must keep in mind what happened in a similar situation several years ago. The Duck Tours case. Cost Key West $8 million. Uber and the Duck matter have many similarities.
Then there are the more recent food truck cases. Key West said the operations were restaurants and needed local approvals. The owners said no. We are motor vehicles. The court agreed, ruling food trucks were motor vehicles. The city lost. Not an $8 million beating. Fortunately.
It is a new time. The world progresses. Uber has what appears to be a better product for all concerned. I am not saying put the cab companies out of business. No, merely let Uber compete with them fair and square. I believe 5-10 years down the road, cabs as such will be a thing of the past. They will not be able to survive against the tide. Technology as Uber represents will have taken over. Uber and similar companies will be the transportation vehicles of the new day.