Uber breaks monopoly, legitimizes city

After months of deliberation, calls for action from frustrated St. Louisans, a satirical app mocking the lack of ridesharing services and aggressive opposition from cab companies, it’s finally here. The vicious battle between the St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission (MTC) and Uber ended last Friday after Uber sued the MTC for violating the Sherman Antitrust Act, a legislative piece designed to combat artificial or constructed monopolies of an industry. Uber then started operating without permission, in spite of the MTC’s requirement that drivers get additional background checks.

While Uber’s quick integration has been slightly disorganized, its presence is welcome. From a moral standpoint, the MTC does not have a right to monopolize transportation services in St. Louis.

It’s about time that Uber arrived here. Up until now, St. Louis had been one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country to lack ride-sharing services. Uber offers an alternative to the lengthy, often frustrating process of ordering a cab. Also, adding more transportation options during peak cab hours doesn’t hurt, either. With the click of a button, users can request a ride. They can view their driver’s name and rating and see their location on the map. The driver can directly contact the user, which is more efficient than the nebulous “Yeah, your cab is probably on its way” exchange that happens while calling a cab. It has a feature that allows for the user to estimate the fare, along with a section that breaks down charges per ride.

There aren’t questions about what a user is or is not being charged for. It is the millennial’s mode of transport, and its presence legitimizes St. Louis as a major city.

Of course, this doesn’t mean the cab companies are pleased—and not without reason. The plight of cab drivers is understandable. For many, cab driving is a primary source of income. If Uber here is anything like Uber in other major cities, the cab industry is going to lose business. It’s especially interesting in a place like St. Louis, where, aside from a few major areas like Lambert Airport or the South 40 on the weekends, cabs are specifically called, as opposed to a place like New York, where cabs regularly circulate. St. Louis cabs will have to go out of their way to stay in business.

Still, completely blocking Uber is not the solution. Rather than trying to restrict its entry (and ignoring the major demand for Uber), cab companies should work to be better than Uber. After all, this is a market: If there’s a demand, it must be met in the most efficient manner possible.

That’s not to say that the hasty implementation of Uber in such a short time span has been flawless. In such a short turnaround, it’s difficult to believe that Uber drivers have been sufficiently briefed on how to provide a good Uber experience. One driver mentioned that her training had been exclusively virtual. She had been instructed to watch a basic how-to video online from Uber and did not have a St. Louis representative to contact in case she needed help. As of last Friday, the service has also been slightly spotty—cars can unexpectedly be unavailable at certain times and in certain locations. With time, however, this situation should stabilize, much like it has in other cities, and Uber will (effectively) open up the market for free enterprise for all.

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