This article was published by the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, August 25, 2014:
As ride-sharing smartphone apps like Lyft, Uber, and Sidecar continue their inevitable expansion, additional benefits are being felt. Last June Uber announced that DUI arrests dropped 10 percent in Seattle after they entered that market. Other cities noticed similar experiences, so one of the Washington Post’s writers enlisted the help of Nate Good, a statistics expert, to prove it. They looked at Philadelphia: DUIs have been declining there ever since Uber entered the Phillie market in early 2013. The decline is especially notable for those under age 30.
In San Francisco, the birthplace of the ride-sharing phenomenon in June 2010, the results are even more remarkable: DUI arrests there have been cut in half.
There are other benefits, too. One-third of twenty-somethings don’t own a car, but 90 percent of them own a smartphone. When they party hearty, it’s easy to ask for a ride home by pressing the app. They pay less than they would for a traditional cab, they don’t have to wait as long for the cab to show up, they get treated with respect, and they avoid a potential DUI. The drivers like the arrangement too: “cab crimes” are down significantly since they don’t carry cash, and the customers have been vetted in advance: they must have a valid credit card and provide the company with other identification. It works both ways, too: customers can see which drivers are recommended by other customers, which ones have the best safety records, and so on. Sources estimate that the ride-sharing industry is adding 20,000 new drivers every month.
Not everyone gets it. That would include California State Senator Ben Hueso from San Diego. Right after voting to support a bill last Friday that would virtually kill the ride-sharing industry in California, Hueso went to a party and got falling-down drunk. Photos of him still standing but with his shirt untucked and him holding a glass of vino are available on the internet, but when he tried to navigate his state-owned Ford Fusion away from the capitol building after the party, the CHP “observed [Hueso exhibiting] objective signs and symptoms of alcohol intoxication.” Not only was he headed the wrong way down a one-way street at two in the morning, he was so drunk that the police said he was “unable to safely operate the vehicle.”
Once he sobered up and was able to function again, he apologized:
I am truly and profoundly sorry for the unacceptably poor personal judgment which I demonstrated last night. As someone who cares deeply about the public safety, I sincerely apologize to my family, my constituents, and my colleagues in the Senate for breaching the trust they’ve all placed in me.
He promised to be a good boy, sober up, and never do it again:
I will also engage in immediate, corrective actions to ensure this kind of personal conduct is never repeated.
There is one thing he might consider doing differently: changing his vote on Assembly Bill 612, which, for all intents and purposes, would end the ride-sharing business in California. It would force Uber, Lyft, and others to comply with draconian rules and regulations that would strangle the newborns in their cribs. Sidecar CEO Sunil Paul said the bill is “a burdensome approach that is backed by the taxicab lobby, really, to try to shut us down. If it passes, it [will be] a disaster – it would literally spell the end of the ride-share industry.”
It might take more than just one night in the drunk tank, however, for Hueso to change his mind, and his vote. After all, his brother, Antonio, owns one of the largest cab companies in San Diego. And Ben has been widely accused of favoritism and conflict of interest in presenting bills that would have helped, or protected, brother Tony from competition. Ride-sharing is just one more annoyance that can best be gotten rid of through legislation like AB 612.
One more thing that ride-sharing is doing, aside from giving the customer (and the driver) a better overall experience: it is challenging the status quo of taxicab unions and their friends in high places. So brothers Ben and Tony are likely to continue sticking together. If the bill passes, and eliminates the burgeoning new industry, no doubt brother Ben will celebrate with a glass or two of medicinal spirits. And when things get out of hand, he’ll be able to call brother Tony for a ride home, and avoid another embarrassment like the one he suffered last Saturday morning. After all, brothers have got to stick together.
Washington Post: Are Uber and Lyft responsible for reducing DUIs?
San Diego Reader: Ben Hueso’s taxi cab conflict