DC city council moves to keep limo service from lowering its fares

Christopher Bedford Former Editor in Chief, The Daily Caller News Foundation
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On Tuesday, while unemployment in Washington, D.C. hangs at 9.3 percent and temperatures remain at or near 100 degrees, the D.C. city council is planning to meet to make ensure that Uber — an efficient and reliable luxury town-car limo service — does not lower its fares.

“The council’s intention is to prevent Uber from being a viable alternative to taxis by enacting a price floor to set Uber’s minimum fare at today’s rates and no less than 5 times a taxi’s minimum fare,” Uber co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick wrote in a Monday press release.

The move by the council follows an Uber announcement that it was planning to launch UberX — a less expensive version of Uber with less luxurious cars.

Uber’s concept is simple: Sign up and download their mobile phone application, and when you need a car, click a few buttons. Within a few minutes, a luxury sedan will arrive at your door, announce its presence with a text message, drive you to your destination and charge your credit card. It’s more expensive than a cab ride, but there is no waiting on the hold, and the cars and drivers are clean and professional.

While The New York Times reports that the typical town car service is 40 to 100 percent more than a cab fare, the proposed cheaper fleet is estimated to cost between just 10 and 25 percent more than a normal cab fare.

“It was hard for us to believe that an elected body would choose to keep prices of a transportation service artificially high — but the goal is essentially to protect a taxi industry that has significant experience in influencing local politicians,” Kalanick wrote in an email to users. “They want to make sure there is no viable alternative to a taxi in Washington D.C., and so on Tuesday (tomorrow!), the DC City Council is going to formalize that principle into law.”

This is not the first time that D.C. has cracked down on Uber’s operation. One of the drivers for the San Francisco startup was the subject of a sting in January.

This is also not the first time the city council has had a questionable deal with the cab industry. In 2009, the FBI charged dozens of people in the taxi industry with conspiring to bribe the chairman of the city Taxicab Commission.

The Daily Caller reached out to the 12 members of the D.C. City Council for comment Monday evening, but none replied. The message machine of former mayor and current councilman Marion Barry however, wished TheDC “a wonderful, wonderful day.”

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