Monthly Archives: August 2013

Coffee with Assistant City Manager Joey Zapata

JoeyZapataShortly after the City Council meeting on Wednesday I was surprised to get an email from Assistant City Manager Joey Zapata suggesting we meet for coffee. We met at Ascension yesterday afternoon and had an in depth conversation about the proposed updates to the section of the City’s code which regulates limousines and taxis. I began the conversation by asking him to explain the ‘goal’ of the City’s limo and taxi ordinances. Joey explained the City’s goal was twofold:

  • to promote the safety of the public
  • to provide consumers protection from unscrupulous actors.

I then asked how the updates proposed in his addendum helped the City meet these goals. He was unable to articulate a line of reasoning that would justify the proposed updates. I pressed him asking if knew of any instance where Uber negatively impacted public safety or consumer protection. He could not cite any instances.

However, in Joey’s letter to the City Council he indicated that the new updates he was proposing would actually “better regulate safe, reliable and fair transportation-for-hire services” i.e. help the city meet the two primary goals of the City’s ordinance related to limo and taxis. I’ve read and reread the proposed changes to the ordinance and I can’t possibly see how they positively or negatively impact the goal’s of the City. In reality the only thing Joey’s changes do is placate Yellow Cab and make it impossible for Uber to exist.

In my opinion I think the City Council needs to give the City Managers one additional goal:

  • to allow for the greatest possible consumer choice in transportation

If Joey and his team had this additional goal they would have had the authority to modify the existing ordinances to allow for new entrants like Uber to enter the marketplace. Joey spent considerable time explaining that the big issue with Uber is that the customer’s receipt does not include the name of the licensed operating authority (i.e. the limo company’s name). It is on this basis that the City has issued more than 60 citations to Uber and limo drivers around Dallas. If Joey and his team were directed to promote customer choice and competition they could have simply proposed modifications to the existing ordinance to allow for third-parties like Uber to bill for services provided by a licensed operating authority.

To be honest, even after an hour with Joey, I still don’t really understand why this option wasn’t considered. It is NOT in the interest of the City or the citizens of Dallas to stop Uber from operating.

Interestingly I reiterated my previous suggestion that we turn this problem into an opportunity for Dallas (see below) and Joey seemed positive about the idea, but indicated that it was not his place to make policy – that was the role of the council. Note to City Council – get busy and fix this…

From my previous post:

“Now that the Council has moved the matter to committee it is the perfect time for Dallas to consider overhauling the City Code related to taxis and limos – the ordinances are woefully out of date and do not reflect the reality of the world we live in. There are LOTS of really innovative startups experimenting in the transportation space given the prevalence of mobile technology – Uber is just one of the companies causing disruption. Cities across the country are fighting these startups in court making it very expensive to launch. What if Dallas took the time to figure out how to make it easy for ALL of these companies to do business in Dallas while at the same time protecting the interests of the citizens of Dallas? How many jobs might we bring to Dallas if we became the go-to city for technology driven innovation?

The committee needs to really take time to study how all of the various technology enabled transportation models work. They need to talk to Uber, HailO, LeCab, Zypsee, Lyft, Sidecar, InstantCab, Flywheel, GetTaxi, Zimride, Local Motion to find out how we can make it easier for them to come to Dallas. Instead of fighting them we need to take the time to understand them and square our need to protect the citizens with the need to allow for innovation, competition and choice.

When and if the City does overhaul the Code related to taxis and limos we need to ensure that those regulations do not pick winners and losers. The regulations should ONLY serve to protect the interests of the citizens of Dallas. I believe it is in the best interest of the citizens of Dallas to have as much choice as possible. Lets make Dallas THE place for innovative startups and ideas. #DallasNeedsUber could be the perfect catalyst… To that end I am going to host a small group of concerned citizens at my home sometime in the next week or two to discuss how we might be able to help make this a reality. If you would like to join me send me an email at amuse@startupmuse.com.”

#DallasNeedsUber Could be an Opportunity for Dallas

BSuwcW4IcAAAgKV.jpg_largeI’ve lived in Dallas almost my entire adult life, but until today I had never attended a City Council meeting. The meeting started off with a bang as a woman dressed in traditional African costume (along with an accompanist on drums) serenaded Mayor Mike Rawlings just before she accused the Sergent at Arms of ‘wanting’ to rape her. Of course I have no way of knowing for sure, but I don’t think he wanted to rape her. Shortly after the entertainment concluded the Mayor asked the members of the council if they had a motion on addendum 5 (the language that would have made it impossible for Uber to do business in Dallas). The motion was brought by Councilmen Sheffie Kadane to move the matter to the transportation committee and then back to the full Council for a briefing. Councilmen Philip Kingston proposed an alternative motion that a full investigation of the entire matter, with subpoena power, be conducted. Some general arguing ensued and the Mayor suggested they go into private session to come to an agreement. When they all returned the original motion was agreed to with the amendment that the Mayor would be responsible for defining the investigation. Then the mayor thanked us for coming and continued with the rest of the agenda. No comments from the public were allowed. Almost the entire room stood to leave causing quite a ruckus so much so that the Mayor had to ask us to leave quietly.

I was on the agenda to speak about the issue and had I spoke I was going to explain how I thought we could turn this unfortunate event into something positive for Dallas. Whenever government picks winners and loser in business we all lose in the end. Regulations designed to favor one business over another are abhorrent. Regulations should be enacted to solve problems that exist and yet no one has ever given me a cogent argument as to what problem Uber causes the citizens of Dallas.

Now that the Council has moved the matter to committee it is the perfect time for Dallas to consider overhauling the City Code related to taxis and limos – the ordinances are woefully out of date and do not reflect the reality of the world we live in. There are LOTS of really innovative startups experimenting in the transportation space given the prevalence of mobile technology – Uber is just one of the companies causing disruption. Cities across the country are fighting these startups in court making it very expensive to launch. What if Dallas took the time to figure out how to make it easy for ALL of these companies to do business in Dallas while at the same time protecting the interests of the citizens of Dallas? How many jobs might we bring to Dallas if we became the go-to city for technology driven innovation?

The committee needs to really take time to study how all of the various technology enabled transportation models work. They need to talk to Uber, HailO, LeCab, Zypsee, Lyft, Sidecar, InstantCab, Flywheel, GetTaxi, Zimride, Local Motion to find out how we can make it easier for them to come to Dallas. Instead of fighting them we need to take the time to understand them and square our need to protect the citizens with the need to allow for innovation, competition and choice.

When and if the City does overhaul the Code related to taxis and limos we need to ensure that those regulations do not pick winners and losers. The regulations should ONLY serve to protect the interests of the citizens of Dallas. I believe it is in the best interest of the citizens of Dallas to have as much choice as possible. Lets make Dallas THE place for innovative startups and ideas. #DallasNeedsUber could be the perfect catalyst… To that end I am going to host a small group of concerned citizens at my home sometime in the next week or two to discuss how we might be able to help make this a reality. If you would like to join me send me an email at amuse@startupmuse.com.