One of the better examples of government having difficulty keeping up with the changing times is the sorry state of the traditional taxi industry. It is being hammered by ride-hailing outfits such as Uber and Lyft, which are largely unregulated by government, while traditional cab companies have to toe the regulatory line in the interest of protecting the public.
It makes no sense if, as one operator put it this week, the traditional cab business revenue in this area has plummeted dramatically because of ride-hailing’s entry into the resort market.
While it might be argued that the cab industry must suck it up like any other enterprise threatened by newer technology and figure out a better way to compete, it isn’t like any other enterprise. It’s held to a higher standard than its competitors, which, warranted or not, have captured a big share of an increasingly app-happy market.
It’s more fashionable, in other words, to tap a ride on a phone app than it is to call a cab, even though the cab fare for short trips is less in most cities than what Uber would charge.
Ocean City government has acknowledged the situation by lowering certain fees, but it remains focused on maintaining control of a commercial concern for the benefit of a society that’s increasingly ignoring it.
Besides, the standard business models no longer apply, as Amazon demonstrated by losing billions of dollars in its first few years before turning an almost negligible profit seven years after its founding.
Uber is losing money too, a lot of it, and it doesn’t care because Wall Street investors still believe the big payoff will come, as the company seeks greater saturation of the market.
Meanwhile, the local cabbie is paying the price of ride-hailing companies’ ambitions. Assuming it wishes to continue providing resort’s visitors with a cab ride that bears its seal of approval, Ocean City government needs to start thinking creatively about how it will help these companies compete against outfits that answer only to themselves.