The Houston Chronicle reports that Uber, the ridesharing and decentralized taxi service/app, has immediately commenced service within Houston. The news comes shortly after one of their key competitors, Lyft, announced they too would begin service in Houston. Lyft, which prides itself on not technically charging fees but rather making its income through ostensible donations, was initially deterred from beginning service in Houston until after disputes over the City’s complicated and immense taxi regulating ordinances were cleared up. However, these concerned were placated for the time being after Lyft announced they would not accept fees/donations at first. Accordingly, it would operate for free. Following this lead, Uber announced its immediate entrance into the market late on Thursday, though also pledged to be free for the time being.
Negotiations are currently underway in City Council committees to reform certain transportation regulations, but at current, if either of these services begin accepting money (either in the form of fees or donations), it would be breaking the law. Mayor Parker has historically been quite skeptical of these platforms, and I sincerely believe she would clamp down somewhat strictly on overt violations of the law by these companies.
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Astute readers of this blog will recall that I am not really a big fan of Uber. I’ve never really jumped head over heels for their business model, but I am especially not sympathetic to how flagrantly they violate the rules set in place by municipalities and just presumptuously operate as they see fit. Of course, as I have been reminded many times, all ride-sharing organizations should not be painted by the same broad brush, and that is readily apparent in the distinction between Uber and Lyft.
The Houston Chronicle reports that Lyft will be commencing operation tomorrow in Houston. The key distinction between Uber and Lyft is that, while the former operates much in the same way as a taxi, Lyft tries to operate far more as a ride-sharing organization that features regular people in regular cars. I should note that does not mean I do not similarly have some concerns about the organization, but it is important to note the differences.
However, there are similarities, particularly with the Taxi industry. While Lyft says it is all about donations, at the end of the day it revolves around a business model of rides for money. According to City ordinance, that is called Taxi service. Accordingly, unless they abide by the countless (albeit, sometimes byzantine) regulations facing the taxi industry, they are breaking the law.
Click here to see what Lyft will do!