The Boston Taxi Driver’s Association held a “rolling rally” at Uber’s Boston headquarters this afternoon in order to compel city officials to shut down the app until its drivers can be regulated. The demonstration took place at 186 South Street in Boston’s Leather District from 2 to 3 p.m.
The organization represents more than 1,400 cab drivers and is arguing that an unregulated taxi service like Uber poses a serious public safety threat because drivers are not vetted by the city before they are allowed to pick up fares. In order to make the requested changes, the BTDA is citing a rule that gives Boston’s police commissioner the authority to alter the city’s taxi regulations “to promote public well-being, convenience, safety, and to respond to the changing needs of the industry.”
The fact that many Uber drivers are not vetted is a real concern and one that public officials should be troubled by, but the app has more than a few redeeming qualities.
If you’re not familiar with it, Uber allows users to personally request a taxi through their phone. It will come to address you put in and all payment is done through a credit carder number saved to the app ahead of time. After each ride, users are asked to rate their driver. Any driver with a rating below four stars is reprimanded or even barred from picking up fares through the app in the future. That type of guaranteed quality of service has left the vast majority of Uber customers happy with their experience, despite the BTDA’s legitimate public safety concerns.
And it doesn’t help the BTDA’s case when you consider the rule they are citing also mentions “convenience” and “the changing needs of the industry.” Those are two things regular taxi services have done little to address, which is why Uber has become such a strong competitor, cutting “legitimate taxi business by 30 percent,” according to the BTDA’s release.
Perhaps the regular taxi industry in Boston would benefit from some self-reflection.
Here are some scenes from the rally: