When Uber started, they were the underdogs. They were fighting against regulators who protected the entrenched interests of taxi companies, often corrupt, who tried to shut them down. Those companies were big contributors to politicians.
In many places, Uber was illegal. But they’d operate anyway. People loved them, and would turn out to keep them legal. Politicians had to cave. But Uber has gone from fighting regulators to be allowed to do business, to using regulators to quash competition.
New Yorkers thought that when the city capped the number of licenses for for-hire vehicles ‘to prevent traffic congestion’ they were regulating Uber. The truth is they were doing Uber’s bidding by handing the ridesharing giant a tool to keep out competitors. Uber (and Lyft) are the big lobbying spenders now.
In New York there are a limited number of licenses, and those are busy working for Uber. New competitors have a hard time entering the market. Startup Revel thought they found a loophole that would allow them to compete against Uber in New York. The Taxi & Limousine Commission created an exemption to the cap on ridesharing vehicles for electric vehicles. So they’d use only electric vehicles in their service. They’d be driven by employees with benefits, too.
In a perfect example of regulatory capture, the Taxi & Limousine Commission did Uber’s bidding to keep out a new competitor: they abolished the electric vehicle exemption just before Revel’s launch.
Revel CEO Frank Reig criticized the TLC’s “unprecedented resistance” to the company’s plan, which would have seen it launch an initial fleet of 50 electric Tesla Model Ys, driven by employees rather than independent contractors.
“Revel isn’t going to flood the streets with thousands of cars at once like other operators have in the past,” Reig said. “In fact, we literally can’t do that,” he continued, noting the lack of charging infrastructure in the city.
Building a business is hard. Especially when shortsighted bureaucracy and entrenched interests stand in your way. But you can't stop the future and you definitely can't stop my team. We'll be launching shortly and I can't wait to show New Yorkers the future of rideshare!
— Frank Reig (@FrankReig) June 24, 2021
The Taxi & Limousine Commission reportedly had even formally made its decision to ban Revel and held a public meeting afterward only to satisfy legal requirements, and didn’t even take time to consider the arguments presented before moving forward. It was a fait accompli.