Patrick Sexton: Ride service can help address transportation shortfalls

We hear transportation is a serious problem in Rochester that will worsen with the Destination Medical Center initiative and its (hoped-for) growth.

On-demand ride services such as Lyft or Uber provide safe, reliable, flexible transportation that arrives exactly when and where you want. Millions of people use them every day in hundreds of cities throughout the U.S. and the world.

Before you call one via your phone, you know when it will arrive and about how much it will cost. When you get to your destination, you just get out of the car, and your credit card is charged. You don't need cash or a debit card. You also get to rate the driver: Was the car clean? Was he a good driver? Was it a safe ride?

It is an efficient product designed from a passenger's perspective, and it has saved people billions of dollars.

But this isn't about them. It's about the role of government.


Already some are trying to use the power of government to eliminate this option. Government was not instituted to protect companies from competition, but to ensure a level playing field to let the market — us — choose the winners and losers.

The city regulates cab companies, and those regulations add cost to our fare. To note just one: A company needs at least 15 cars to operate in Rochester. It seems arbitrary. Why not 11 or 19 or three? The city also has a dress code — for both the driver and the car.

As the Ban Uber petition makes clear: "All of these regulations have literally cost the current cab companies hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to provide taxi service to the citizens of Rochester."

They are right to be angry at the high cost to operate. They know better than anyone regulations and fees are passed right along to you and me in the form of higher prices.

But instead of increasing regulations and keeping competitors out, why not reduce regulations to ensure more competition and lower prices?

While all of us would like to pay less, the poorest among us stand the most to gain. Reducing their transportation costs means more money for groceries and clothes. It might even allow them to take a better-paying job they can't get to today.

The goal shouldn't be to pretend we can regulate away all risk. There is risk in everything. A quick Web search for "taxi driver charged" proves legacy taxis aren't all that safe — even with all the regulations. Instead the goal should be to have minimal regulations that protect consumers while incentivizing competition, as hundreds of cities have already done.

The benefits don't stop at the poor, those who need an occasional ride or the millions who visit every year. As the price comes down and more people can afford to take a taxi, the existing taxi companies will see an increase in ridership, so they will benefit, too.


Government shouldn't be used to protect the status quo and force us to pay higher prices when cheaper options exist.

Patrick Sexton, of Rochester Township, is a member of the Post-Bulletin Community Editorial Advisory Board.

For the other side of the issue, see Michael Kleiber's April 18 commentary .

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