After failing to gain any traction in 2014, State Rep. Alan Powell of Hartwell has re-introduced a bill to the Georgia House which would essentially prevent the wildly popular Uber and Lyft car services from operating in the state.
House Bill 224 would force Uber drivers to obtain taxi medallions such as the ones owned by taxi cab companies and their drivers. These medallions cost upwards of $75,000 in Atlanta, (a pittance compared to the $1 million they can cost in NYC) and effectively limit how many cabs can operate in the city at once. Of course the arrival of Uber wreaked havoc on the medallion system, sending their prices plummeting and leading to a class-action lawsuit from Atlanta taxi drivers in 2014.
Faced with new competition that is faster, cheaper, and cleaner, taxi companies modernized their vehicles and payment systems and introduced phone applications to make ordering their services easier.
They changed absolutely none of that, instead choosing to stick with the tried and true method of leaving customers on hold for five minutes as they try to get a ride, arriving in cars that make passengers want to sit on a towel, and of course the taxi cab special – throwing a fit when a customer has the audacity to try to pay with a credit card as opposed to cash. Whatever power and influence they gained through operating in a town with only a bare minimum of public transportation for the past 50 years will not go into revamping their cars and service, but into the taxi lobbyists who have managed to convince a State Representative from Hartwell to take a noble stand for their cause.
Hartwell, by the way, is not exactly a hub of taxi cab activity. Neither Uber nor Lyft have expanded their services into the town, and there are as of yet no plans to offer boat services to over-served residents of the nearby lake bearing the city’s name. Powell certainly isn’t facing the blowback that one of his colleagues from the Atlanta metro would receive from dropping anti-Uber legislation, and thus it makes sense for him to be the face of anti-car service laws.
This is a case of a small-interest group in the Atlanta Taxi companies using their influence to hamstring the competition from new and innovative rivals. In a state where Conservatism is supposed to be king, is introducing new legislation to burden certain businesses and ‘level the playing field’ really what the government should be focused on?
Expect stiff opposition from the Atlanta contingent of the party as well as from the usual Tea Party groups who don’t take kindly to new legislation that focuses on heaping more regulation onto successful businesses. The Uber debate doesn’t figure to go away any time soon, but hopefully this latest piece of legislation, like its sister in 2014, fails to drum up any support.