June 18, 2014

KILLJOYS IN CAMBRIDGE GO TO WAR ON UBER.

Tech-friendly Cambridge is just the latest city to mull a clampdown on wildly popular Internet-based car services, with a heated licensing board hearing last night that pitted webbies vs. cabbies over tough regulations that would unplug Uber in the city that is home to the Kendall Square electronics research hub.

The latest regulatory challenge to transportation apps drew dozens of supporters of Uber and Lyft — a similar service that uses cars adorned with furry pink mustaches — as well as Boston and Cambridge taxi drivers fearful of losing business.

“We will do everything and anything to help our fellow brothers kick (the app services) out,” said Chando Souffarnt, one of several cabbies sporting anti-Uber stickers. “This is unacceptable.”

But Gordon Gossage, a Lyft driver who says he has made more than 2,300 trips, said cab drivers are just trying to avoid competitors. “They don’t have the constitutional right to be protected from competition,” Gossage said.

Nope, but they think that they do. More from Adriana Cohen:

There’s a simple answer to the battle between cabbies and techies over app car services like Uber — now being fought in Cambridge, Boston and other cities around the country.

Let the market decide.

The marketplace is already making its voice heard, loud and clear. Uber is stealing market share away from its old-school competitors at such a lightning pace, it could someday make traditional taxis a thing of the past. Just like CDs were replaced by iTunes. And DVDs were replaced by streaming movies online … the same could happen to the taxi industry.

It’s called technology innovation. It’s why we don’t use buggywhips anymore.

We’ve moved on to smartphones. Savvy consumers can summon an Uber car without having to wait and hail a taxi on the street. This genius concept has earned Uber an estimated $18 billion market share that has investors salivating.

Taxi companies — stuck with 20th-century technology, rules, fees and overhead that services like Uber and Lyft are free of — say it’s an unfair playing field. How can traditional cabbies remain competitive when they are subject to different rules than their direct competitors?

The answer is, they can’t.

Which is why politicians, instead of banning progress, need to get out of the way and let the free market decide which company is left standing. That’s how free markets work.

Yep. But the trouble with free markets is that they offer insufficient opportunity for graft.

More: War On Rideshare Apps Heats Up In Boston.