The Metropolitan Taxicab Commission (MTC), which regulates for-hire vehicles (mainly taxis) in Saint Louis City and County, has attempted to put the brakes on ridesharing options since Lyft (an Uber competitor) tried to enter the local market in 2014. While pressure from local governments prompted the MTC to make reforms, talks between ridesharing companies and the MTC broke down completely in the summer of 2015. Uber simply went forward offering its services to the region’s residents, flouting the rules of the MTC.
In the past, when companies or individuals violated MTC policies, police in Saint Louis City and County enforced the commission’s rulings by ticketing drivers. That is, after all, how the region responded to Lyft in 2014. However, Saint Louis City has flatly refused to use its police to block Uber, and police in Saint Louis County haven’t done much either. While the MTC could have used its very limited law enforcement capacity to attack Uber in 2015, the commission found itself in the midst of a public relations nightmare, with the state legislature seemingly ready to step in and completely overhaul the MTC. As a result, Uber now operates in Saint Louis, the police do nothing, and the MTC (while reiterating that Uber is acting illegally) keeps its head down.
Now that the state legislature has failed either to reform the MTC or implement statewide ridesharing regulations, and with the unprofessionalism of MTC commissioners fading into memory, the taxi commission is reportedly planning to remind everyone who runs this town. As the Riverfront Times reports, the commission will begin seeking out UberX drivers and citing them for operating without a commission license. If such an act does not prompt Uber to shut down its services in the region altogether, it may seriously diminish the number of people willing drive for the company.
Whether or not the MTC will follow through on its threats is an open question. But what Saint Louisans should recognize by this time is that Uber, operating outside the regulatory framework of the MTC, has provided an innovative new service for all Saint Louis residents for almost a year. Where is the evidence that Uber is dangerous? Where are the market failures that the MTC needs to correct? From what we’ve seen so far, it seems that the ridesharing market operates just fine without the MTC.