New Orleans debates Uber, while Baton Rouge welcomes it.
This week offered a study in contrasts between two major Louisiana cities in their approach to Internet-based car hiring services, especially the San Francisco-based Uber:
The New Orleans City Council’s Transportation Committee on Tuesday heard almost four hours of debate about regulations that might allow Uber and then deferred the discussion to July 22. The next day, the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Council also listened to opposing views on Uber but voted with relative ease, 8-2, to invite Uber and similar operators to the city.
Baton Rouge council members said one reason for their support was that their city is short on transportation options beyond individual car ownership. Uber uses a smartphone application to connect riders with nearby drivers, shows customers their car’s progress on a map and manages all payments electronically. It has a version that works with luxury car operators for high-end service, called Uber Black, and a version that lets people become one-person taxi services, called UberX, which fits under the category of “ridesharing.”
In New Orleans, Uber has expressed particular interest in introducing Uber Black, though many on Tuesday voiced concerns that UberX, which has received more negative publicity nationally, soon would follow. Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration has proposed changes to the city’s limousine service regulations that administrators describe as an attempt to compromise between the lighter regulation insistence of companies like Uber and concerns about safety, competitive fairness, pricing fairness and more from the taxi and limo industry.
While New Orleanians continue the debate, Uber was happy to hold up Baton Rouge as a model in a statement after the vote there: “Consumers throughout Louisiana are eagerly watching how quickly other cities will follow Baton Rouge’s lead in embracing innovation, serving underserved neighborhoods and fostering competition.”
What do readers, and riders, think explains the difference in approaches to digital car-for-hire services between New Orleans and Baton Rouge? Is it the lack of transportation options in Baton Rouge? Is it the influence of the taxi industry in the major tourism destination of New Orleans? Something else entirely? Share your observations below.