Rideshare services are changing in 2015. The high demand service has also been high drama for the public, users, and the public sector. It doesn’t help that rideshare industry leaders are overly careless when sharing their views about women and journalism, and overly silent on liability in tragic accidents with drivers tied to their services. The public sector started to respond to issues with the rideshare services, which are not covered under the current taxi regulations. There is almost full certainty that rideshare will be pulled under more regulations in 2015 but how much is the question. As the services currently exist there are pros and cons to both, no debate here.
The “influence exchange” between rideshare and taxi is the information I am sharing in this post. How much do city-level lobbying payments encourage Los Angeles city efforts in “keeping taxis companies competitive with Uber, Lyft“? It is not surprising that taxis companies are putting the pedal to the metal in regulations and public policy to hinder the spread of rideshare services. “Los Angeles’ nine licensed cab companies reported a 21% drop in trips in the first half of 2014 compared to the same period the previous year, the steepest decline on record.” (LA Times)
In the the “City of LA Influence Exchange,” (update link) LA City lobbying payments from two years of published open data were mapped to categories, including “Transportation Services” (taxi, shuttle, and bus companies) and “Sharing Economy” (ride, car, and housing share economies). The number of Sharing Economy companies paying lobbying fees to LA City officials doubled from 6 in 2013 to 12 in 2014 but only made up a fraction of lobbying fees paid by Transportation Services (13% to 19%). Transportation Services fees paid and number of companies remain fairly consistent in 2013 and 2014. More in chart below.
Lobbying Firm Payments: Sharing vs. Transportation
Overall, if lobbying payments represent access to decision makers, then there was substantially less access for rideshare versus taxi companies within the past two years. Given that influence and relationships are cumulative, my experience from my public policy and advocacy, taxi companies’ influence on LA City officials are at a greater rate than its competitors, higher even than the numbers in the graphs and charts in this post. The history of taxi companies position with LA City leaders risks the future of rideshare companies, and frankly the entire sharing economy, uncertain. Lobbying is only one component of the political and business influence exchange in any jurisdiction. LA City officials – agencies and elected officials – must consider their constituents and the overall public benefits/good. If the sharing economy is at risk in Los Angeles and sharing economy users aim to maintain similar access to and pricing for platforms like Uber, Lyft, and AirBnB, then these users must participate in the influence exchange as well. Regardless of its participants, it looks like in 2015 there will be major realigning of regulations with disruptive businesses/start-ups.