What's going on in Houston's livery scene (and in several major cities across the country -- no, the world) has the makings for a cable television reality show. Let's call it Houston Taxi Wars, wherein the traditional style of transporting people around a city for a cash or credit card fee is challenged to its core by a couple of young start-ups whose customers use smartphones to pay for and hail rides.
It's not an original concept, but one that's freshly playing out here in the Bayou City. And things are moving along faster than you can say "pink moustache grille." After a full-court press at last week's city council meeting that included testimony from Lyft executive Jim Black as well as a half dozen or so young leaders from the city's business community, it looks as if mobile app ride share services Uber and Lyft are moving ever closer toward an official green light.
At a hearing yesterday, a federal judge stopped short of issuing a temporary restraining order against the cab companies, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Attorney Marty Hill, who represents Yellow Cab, asked Gilmore to grant an order that would require current city ordinance be followed. Houston's existing ordinance does not allow the kind of ride-sharing services offered by Lyft and Uber for a fee. Both companies were offering their services here for free until last week, when Uber said it would charge riders. City officials said they would continue to ticket the company's drivers if they took money for the service.
Who wants to see cab and limo companies get hurt in this? No one, I suspect. But just like how Silicon Valley and 21st century technology have taken a little out of our mass media's bottom line, so be it with traditional forms of transportation. It's a jungle out there.
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This morning, a city council committee is expected to convene to discuss possible plans to amend the city ordinance to allow the quick pickups and drop-offs that make the Uber and Lyft business model work.
The limo and taxi supporters threatened to come out in full in an email sent to media yesterday by Joe L. Jordan, the editor of the Limoinsider Report:
LET CITY COUNCIL KNOW THAT WE DON'T WANT THE UBER SCUMBAGS AND THEIR WHOLE BAG OF ILLEGAL TRICKS AND PHONEY INSURANCE HERE.
Yep, it's bound to be a war for these city streets.