On Wednesday, August 6th city counsel members meet again to discuss the legalities of ride-share on the island of Oahu. Many people think if they don’t use ride-share that the issue does not concern them.
But there are many reasons everyone should pay attention to how our leaders choose to lead this Wednesday. There are multiple undercurrents driving this debate. The most discussed being, public safety, consumer protection and a fair market place for taxi cab companies. A component of this debate that could use more analysis, is how ride-share fits into the big picture of the American dream.
Ride-share companies, along with companies like, Airbnb, snapgoods and others, are defining a new category of business called sharing-economy. All of which use technology to connect people for the purpose of exchanging goods and services. These technology companies have bolstered the average, low-volume entrepreneur into a collective force that is beginning to have a real impact on the bottom line of large companies. The current issue is ride-share, but if Honolulu follows suit with other large cities, the next business up for regulation consideration could be Airbnb.
So the larger question becomes, how tolerant will our government be to individual citizens utilizing technology companies to create entrepreneurship opportunities that are competitive on a larger scale than traditionally possible? In this light, paying attention to how our leaders respond to this issue on Wednesday could be very revealing about where their strongest loyalties lie.
If the real issue of ride-share is public safety, take a page from the tobacco play book. Despite public safety concerns, tobacco is still legal to buy, but laws are in place to protect the public from second hand smoke. So regulations to protect the public from the ride-share equivalent need to revolve around complete and total insurance coverage.
If the real issue of ride-share is consumer protection, consider that cigarette manufacturers got around this with only a warning label. So similar regulations involving transparency and disclosure should be enough. By passing regulations of transparency, so that all parties involved can see and acknowledge what they are agreeing to, consumers can then consider the risk to benefit ratios and decide for themselves. Just like cigarettes.
If the real issue is leveling the playing field for taxis, rather than force ride-share companies to conform to taxis, leaders could loosen taxi regulations so they are free to modernize. Then let taxis differentiate their service and save themselves. A feat that would be easier for them to do by not enforcing more standards and regulations on ride-share.
Traditionally governments know that they cannot over regulate small businesses or they simply will not thrive. Likewise, the nature of shared-economy business models requires simplicity in order to survive. So unless the real agenda is to protect bigger, already established businesses, law makers need to honor this fact when deciding what regulations are imperative for businesses of this nature.
Ride-share is only one branch on the tree of a new business model that actually stands to significantly empower ordinary people. The main issueWednesday might be ride-share, but the big issue is freedom. Freedom of choice and the rights of the average American citizen to monetize there own assets and put a little extra change in their pocket. That is why everyone should care about how the regulation of ride-share is executed.
Top photo courtesy of esurance.
Stephanie Lewis is an Oahu-based writer.
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