That’s the question that will be discussed on the next live TVSet on Sunday, May 3, starting at 6 p.m.
Uber is a non-union Smartphone App-enabled taxi service that is currently in some kind of ‘test mode’ here in Portland, our fair city. Is it a glittering example of the “Sharing Economy,” or is it another example of technology being used to enrich the few, while leading others to disadvantage?
It will be a lively show, with co-hosts Jim Wrathall and John Kellerman, and guest Delilah Jones (spokes-person for cabbies). Once again, John has created an original musical composition addressing the concerns surrounding Uber and its business model. He’ll debut it live on the show. In fact, here are the clever lyrics:
Taken for a Ride
© 2015 John Kellermann
I went drinkin’ with my buddies, we was feelin’ fine,
‘Til the bartender said, “It’s closin’ time.”
I called a cab, ’cause I was feeling tipsy, They said,
“Might be a while, ’cause it’s really busy.”
My buddy said, hey, here’s a clever trick,
Download this app, they’ll get you home real quick.
I took his advice and got a big surprise:
Paid 99 dollars for a 3 mile ride!
I got taken, I got taken, I got taken,
Taken for a ride.
When there’s plenty of drivers, they’re Uber-cheap,
Then when it gets real busy, they’re Uber-steep.
“This is outrageous!” was my first reaction,
My next was, “How can I get in on the action?”
They said, “You can be a ‘partner’. You can be your own boss!”
They took twenty percent, I got the overhead cost.
Yet I made good money, so it seemed at first,
‘Til they hired more drivers, and things got worse.
I got taken, I got taken, I got taken,
Taken for a ride.
Now you can see me coming in my Radio Cab.
You can hail us, you can call us, you can use our app.
You know we’re insured, you know we’re safe,
And you know what’s on the meter is the price you’ll pay.
Don’t get taken. Don’t be mistaken. Don’t get taken.
On a super-duper, Uber-expensive ride.
Now a little about Uber
To get an Uber ride, consumers submit a trip request via the app, which is routed to crowd-sourced taxi drivers. According to Wikipedia, as of March 26, 2015, “the service was available in 55 countries and more than 200 cities worldwide. The company has raised $2.8 billion in total funding [Google and Goldman Sachs are investors]. Many governments and taxi companies have protested against Uber, alleging that its use of unlicensed, crowd-sourced drivers was unsafe and illegal. It is estimated that Uber will generate 10 billion dollars in revenue by the end of 2015.”
It’s a good thing they have lots of money ’cause it looks like they are frequent court visitors, forced to defend their practices. And that money allows them to aggressively expand their service options:
- Package Delivery called Uber Rush (it’s being tested in Manhattan).
- Uber Essentials allows online ordering and delivery of about 100 items (it’s being tested in Washington D.C.).
- The first project from Uber Garage gives users the option to hire a regular taxi driver, or an Uber driver.
- Uber Pool is a carpool service. It matches riders with another rider who is traveling in the same direction (if a match isn’t found, riders are offered a discount on a regular Uber trip).
- They are working on a research project with a university that involves driverless cars.
Uber’s pricing model will be discussed on the show, including their “surge pricing,” which means prices are raised when demand is high, one of the most controversial aspects of Uber. (The company applied for a patent on surge pricing in 2013.)
Unrestrained capitalism? Misuse of customer data? Love it, or hate it (Uber has an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau)? Does it benefit markets with an under supply of taxis? Does it prompt an over regulation of transportation services? Are its drivers safe or unsavory? Does it drive down prices, a consumer benefit?
Have you, or will you call Uber?
Kellerman took the lead on this topic. Here is a host of links that he used to research the issue, and which he’s likely to refer during the broadcast.
Transportation Fairness Alliance
“Portland deserves transportation options that are safe and fair.”
Riding Dirty: How Uber Takes Drivers and Passengers for a Ride:
Uber’s $18 billion valuation is all the buzz in the world of tech startups and transportation, but is there something more sinister going on underneath the hood?
The reason this disruptive tech startup can double revenue every six months will shock and amaze you. Find out how Uber packages the American Dream, monetizes your safety and greases the wheels of local politics.
This video reveals how they skirt regulations, how their deal with drivers is bait and switch, their inadequate “background checks”, inadequate insurance, dirty tricks on their competition, and their wheelin’ and dealin’ with local authorities.
Surge pricing: Woman charged $92 for 2.7-mile Uber ride
The hidden costs of being an Uber driver
Lawsuit brought by Uber drivers to recover the tips they should have received and reimbursement for expenses:
Uber to Portland: We’re Here. Deal With It.
By Conor Dougherty and Mike Isaac New York Times December 5, 2014
Uber promises it’s done defying Portland taxi laws:
Portland taxi board prepares for Uber’s return by approving 64 percent increase in cab permits
Portland may allow Uber to return with ‘surge pricing,’ special rules
Ride or Die: Six Things You Need to Know About Tuesday’s Pivotal Vote on Uber
Uber, Lyft back in Portland on 120-day pilot program
Portland leaders’ foolish rush to accommodate Uber (OPINION) By Amanda Fritz http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2015/04/proposed_portland_ride-share_r.html