At long last, UberX has begun operating in Saint Louis.
Just not legally.
On 10:00 A.M., Uber, a prominent national ridesharing company, simultaneously filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the Saint Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission (MTC) and launched UberX in defiance of that commission. This move followed the breakdown of negotiations between the MTC, Uber, and local government officials over new ridesharing regulations. Some MTC commissioners claim they have made all the concessions they can, and that they are simply enforcing state statutes on fingerprinting and background checks. However, Uber and other local officials claim that remaining regulatory barriers are unnecessary and will prevent Uber from serving the metropolitan area.
In addition to its inability to end Saint Louis’s status as the largest city in the United States without cheap ridesharing, the MTC continues to embarrass the city in its spare time. The latest incident came when a local resident submitted a sunshine request asking for comments and complaints received by the MTC in the last 18 months. One might expect a body whose core mission is to ensure quality cab service to have readily accessible complaint data, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. According to the MTC, complaints are not “readily kept in the ordinary course of our record keeping.” They charged the resident nearly $500 dollars, an amazing sum for files that most governmental organizations would have aggregated and digitized. Those who have read about the MTC’s reaction to a Show-Me Institute sunshine request will be unsurprised by the MTC’s lack of professionalism.
It is exactly one year and seven months since Lyft, another ridesharing company, attempted to enter the Saint Louis market. Since that time, the MTC has constantly resisted reform, treated requests for information with contempt, insulted the public, and engaged in offensive infighting. How can a commission that cannot regulate its own behavior be expected to regulate the taxi market? How long must residents put up with this self-serving commission? As we’ve suggested before, it may be time for the state to disband the taxicab commission altogether.