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Regulations Prompt New Fight Between D.C. Taxicab Commission And Uber

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Uber offers high-end sedans that can be hailed using a smartphone, and has now introduced a lower-price service that more closely competes with traditional taxicabs.
WAMU/Chris Chester
Uber offers high-end sedans that can be hailed using a smartphone, and has now introduced a lower-price service that more closely competes with traditional taxicabs.

Two weeks after launching a new taxi service in Washington, the popular tech start-up Uber says regulators are shutting it down already.

UberX was designed to compete with D.C.'s regulated taxicab industry. Its drivers pick up passengers in midsize hybrid vehicles and charge fares comparable to a metered taxi. But the D.C. Taxicab Commission has passed regulations governing what kinds of vehicles-for-hire may be used this way—and the cars UberX drivers are using are not allowed.

"There is no reason Uber can't comply with present regulations as others are doing, other than Uber's desire to use unregulated vehicles to compete against the same vehicles operating as regulated taxis," says Ron Linton, the chairman of the D.C. Taxicab Commission.

Linton insists the commission is not picking another fight with Uber, which fought for close to a year to ensure that its popular sedan service could operate freely in the city. "The D.C. Taxicab Commission does not fight with the people it regulates," he says.

Uber does not see it that way. "We really don't think this serves the best interest of consumers," says Rachel Holt, Uber's D.C. general manager. Will UberX pull its cars off the streets? "We will have to make a determination about what makes sense at that time," she says.

Linton says Uber is trying to revise regulations to suit its own purposes. Still, Linton may have to make his point to the D.C. Council, as yesterday Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) tweeted her displeasure with the commission's regulations. "It isn't the job of DC Government to stifle innovation & limit consumer choice by passing unfair regulations," she wrote.

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