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Op-Ed: ‘Everyone Should Be Concerned With Uber X’

by RestonNow.com July 8, 2014 at 1:01 pm 2,293 28 Comments

Uber X driver in Rosslyn/ARLnow.comfile photoThis is an op-ed from S. John Massoud, Vice-President of Dulles Airport Taxi and Arlington Blue Top Cabs.

For the past several months, I have been reading and hearing about how my industry has been holding back Uber and other ride sharing apps from being allowed to operate. It is time to clear the record about some falsehoods and other spin being put out by these ride sharing apps and those who are speaking on behalf of the ride sharing apps.

The taxi industry in Virginia has no issue with Uber and other ride sharing apps being allowed to operate. To the contrary, we are very proud of our industry and the job that we do transporting passengers from one location to another. We fear no competition. However everyone should be concerned with the concept of Uber X.

For those of you who do not know what Uber X is, it is a low-cost ride sharing service in which a passenger calls for an unlicensed driver to pick them up in their private vehicle and is transported in that vehicle. The average Uber passenger does not really understand the inherent dangers of this system. And they are as follows:

1. Uber X drivers carry no commercial insurance, only standard vehicle insurance. Meaning that if an Uber passenger is injured while taking a trip, they will not be covered by the driver’s insurance as the driver is using his/her private vehicle for commercial purposes while not having commercial insurance. And while Uber states they have $1 million dollar insurance coverage on all of their vehicles, such insurance is not available on the open market. And Uber has not filed to be self insured under the laws of Virginia, meaning each Virginia passenger in an Uber X vehicle is being transported in an uninsured motor vehicle.  (for those of you who think I am making this up, talk to the family of the 6-year-old girl in San Francisco who was run over by an Uber X driver last year.)

2. Uber states that their Uber X drivers all must pass “criminal background checks.” Yet there is no proof of this, only Uber’s stating they do background checks.  Most likely, if Uber is doing “background checks” on Uber X drivers it is an “internet check” which only gives a very limited and incomplete check. Internet background checks often do not show many misdemeanor convictions or local code convictions. And again all that anyone has is Uber’s word that they do these checks. Unlike Arlington and Fairfax, where the Police Department gets an FBI and State check of each driver’s background showing any and all local, state, or federal convictions and or pending charges. Finger printing of potential drivers would eliminate many issues, yet Uber does not and will not do fingerprinting for Uber X drivers.

3.  Uber and Lyft were given “cease and desist” orders by the DMV only because they made no attempt to file proper licenses with the DMV. The paperwork necessary for Uber and Lyft to file is very simple to fill out and the filing fees are not prohibitive. They just refused to do so. Whether this was done for PR moves (to garner sympathy) or because of corporate arrogance is something we will never know.

4. Uber has no training program for the X drivers and as most Uber X drivers have never passed any type of test showing local road proficiency, new Uber X drivers often have no idea what they are doing. And those of you who have Garmin or a Iphone/DROID GPS know that these are not always accurate.

5. Uber is a worldwide conglomerate which has received in excess of $1.5 billion dollars from Google, Amazon  and other large entities. Where most taxicab firms are local mom-and-pop owned businesses (many of these are minority owned). If taxicab companies have any political pull in localities, it is because these businesses are locally owned and the fleet owners are active in their local communities. Where Uber is already throwing what will be massive amounts of money into Richmond to change legislation which is friendly towards them. Now I ask you, who is the bully on the block? The local mom-and-pop owned business, or the 800 lb. gorilla in the room with $1.5 billion backing them up?

6.  Uber X is now contracting with drivers who have been rejected by Arlington, Fairfax, and the Washington Flyer. Many of these drivers have been rejected for reasons from having poor driving records to having multiple misdemeanors and felonies in their background (none of which were picked up by Uber’s “background check system”).

I am not saying that our industry is perfect. And before anyone calls me a “crony capitalist” I will be the first to admit the industry needs to modernize. More and more local taxicab companies are becoming app based. No one doubts now that app based transportation is the way of the future. But do remember that Uber does not transport disabled passengers — only local cab companies do this.

Uber can transport or refuse to transport anyone it chooses, where your local cab company must take you or lose it’s right to operate. If you have a problem with your local taxicab company, in either Fairfax or Arlington or at Dulles Airport or even at Reagan Airport, and you do not like the response you get from the cab company, you can call the locality or the Airports Authority and your complaint will be heard and you will get some type of favorable action taken on your behalf.  Uber can not say that, because they have nothing governing them other than themselves.

Something on your mind? Send letters and op-eds to [email protected].

  • Nick Rudnev

    “And those of you who have Garmin or a Iphone/DROID GPS know that these are not always accurate.”

    What about TomTom? Is that one accurate? :))))

    Taxi drivers hate GPS devices all of a sudden? Those little black boxes that take you straight to your destination, preventing a cab driver from racking up cab fare by going in circles around your final destination”

  • clambj

    As much as I enjoy complaining about taxi service (and who doesn’t) this op-ed is completely on point. I’m all for competition as long as it’s on a level playing field. Not requiring new companies such as Uber to be held to the same laws, regulations and licenses as the rest of the industry is unfair and anti-competitive.

  • JahArmy

    I really don’t expect anything better from the vice president of dulles airport taxi and arlington blue top cabs. Make your service better rather than lashing out on your competitors. I have been using Uberx for a while now and I haven’t seen any problem with it and I will continue using Uberx.

    • clambj

      You can’t call someone a competitor if they’re not held to the same rules, regulations and related costs that go with that. Besides, you won’t be using Uberx as long as VDOT’s cease and desist order is in effect.

      • Nick Rudnev

        Says who? Uber is operating as usual in Virginia.

        • clambj

          If they are operating then they are clearly doing so in violation of the Department of Motor Vehicles’s cease and desist order.

          “The department says the companies must stop operating immediately because they are violating state law by receiving compensation for facilitating transportation services without proper state authorization. The letters also say the DMV will issue civil penalties to drivers.”

          • Nick Rudnev

            of course they are operating.

      • JahArmy

        Actually they are still operating in VA as usual and i am still using it. so far Uber is not giving up.

  • CMS

    Last time I scheduled a dulles airport taxi for a flight they didn’t show up at all. And last time I tried to get a blue top cab in arlington to take me to Reston, they flat out said no. It’s not really competition if those companies are refusing to provide services anyway. With Uber I know exactly when the driver will arrive since I can track him on the map, and they’ll actually take me where I need to go. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing.

  • Gavin

    “The average Uber passenger does not really understand the inherent dangers of this system. And they are as follows: 5. Uber is a worldwide conglomerate which has received in excess of $1.5 billion dollars from Google, Amazon and other large entities.”

    John Massoud, what’s the inherent danger to the consumer in a company being backed by $1.5B from two of the largest internet companies in the world? Would it be bad if your company got venture funding in the amount of $1.5B?

    • Jim C

      He’s grasping for straws here, but basically using the “big companies = evil; little mom and pops like me = good” and you shouldn’t support big evil companies. It’s like he’s an Occutard.

  • Scott H

    Couple points
    -This notion of licensing pres-supposes that this is a good thing. Why do people need to get a govt license to drive someone around or cut their hair or do any of the things “local” “crony capitalist” companies promote to Govt on safety grounds to make the barrier to entry more difficult for small business competition. Uber has every motivation to ensure they are providing safe drivers. It will take just a few publicized incidents of dangerous issues to completely kill the business.
    -Local Road Proficiency- Really? Most times I need to give my driver turn by turn directions to get where I am going in the burbs and often in the city as well.

    Washington Flyer is a private business with a Govt protected monopoly. Before you deny it, that IS the definition of crony capitalism.

  • local

    HA: “and you do not like the response you get from the cab company, you can call the locality or the Airports Authority and your complaint will be heard and you will get some type of favorable action taken on your behalf. ” Like the time a DC cab driver refused to take me back to Virginia, kicked me out of his car….I write in a complain on the DC website and NOTHING happens….no response….nothing.
    With Uber, if you have a problem, write to them, they’ll fix it best they can, immediately.
    I agree very concerning about the commercial insurance and dangers associated. However I’m sure that will be fixed shortly….

  • RestonMan

    John here is attempting to scare us all into thinking Uber is bad for us. It’s a classic attempt by those with power trying to make you think the other competitor is bad for you. Instead of complaining and attempting to scare us, they should be making the correct moves with their company to ensure they succeed in the evolving market. I understand the taxi companies’ frustrations about a “level playing field”, however they are incorrectly placing blame on Uber. These out of date regulations should be removed for all. THAT would be a level playing field.

  • AndreasL

    I tried once to get a Taxi in Reston, the answer I got was it would need 30 minutes. So I walked……
    Uber is always quick, drivers are nice and polite, I can track how long it will need till the car will arrive, thats fine for me!
    Lets see if in some years Taxi´s will still be in business, I dont think so.

  • Notta Smoker

    The obvious reason why people like Uber is because history of taxi shows drivers are rude, in different to customer service, passive aggressive, talk loud on the phone in many native languages other than English etc etc. I have put up with it and understand the difficulties that people face given their limited skills, or perhaps advanced age, to find a better job. That said, I am a friend of the environment no so much the people. I would rather we live in a less polluted environment where we can share cars and can get to places quickly without have to stand there in the smog. If taxi drivers are concerned about their future maybe they should think about restarting their farm careers, theres plenty of opportunity in that. Good luck,

  • Notta Smoker

    Cease and desist, I could not believe VA officials are in cahoots with these bandits.

  • PL

    This is a one sided view and does not talk about the benefits of Uber over taxis. Uber is successful because it is convenient. I have used it and get picked up in minutes and they do not complain about short rides. Taxi drivers may take 30 minutes to pick me up or if I get one at somewhere like the Hyatt Reston Town Center or the airport, they complain that they waited in line so long and now get a short fare. From a safety perspective, if something were to happen to me, at least the driver of the could be tracked with Uber. With a regular taxi service, if a crime is committed, there is no way to know who the driver was.

  • Go to http://www.lyftvsuber.com/ to try out Uber or Lyft for yourself! The website compares the two most popular ride-sharing services. $30, $25 of FREE ride credit for new passengers and up to $500 sign-up BONUS for new drivers!! Drivers can make as much as $40/hr! Hope you can see what all the hype is about 🙂 Thanks!!!!

  • Ewald Stadler

    I recently had to drop off a rental at IAD Airport and had planned to take a taxi from there back to Reston. Dozens of Washington Flyer taxis drove by, some with their windows rolled down yelling stuff. It was 90 degrees out, I looked ridiculous by the road side – not a single cabbie would stop. Finally I decided to walk to the gas station and an Ethopian taxi driver from DC had the courtesy to take me home. Later I found out that IAD Airport is monopolized by Washington Flyer and there are restrictions from where they can pick up passengers. This is crazy, because I have also been stuck at same airport waiting for over 90 minutes to get a cab. Before then, during a snow storm, no taxi in sight. The only solution I see to the whole mess – Uber X. God bless.

  • Mike M

    Hey taxi industry! The future is calling.

  • Josh G.

    Uber’s insurance policy is with James River Insurance who actually operates in the State of Virginia. They are most definitely not self-insured. You can call the insurance company yourself and verify this.

  • mm

    This op-ed is not an op-ed, but a pack of disgusting lies and slander from a competitor.
    1. UberX drivers are insured to $1M, while on a job. (Not when they are not carrying a passenger).
    2. More pure speculation about a made up “internet” background check. Pure ignorance.
    3. The state licensing serves no purpose…
    4. Most taxi drivers know almost nothing about local roads…whatever training they have is immaterial, it’s not like the London knowledge test.
    5. The bully is the one using govt regulation to hurt consumers.
    6. Members of the DC taxicab commission have criminal records.

  • Allison

    Im new to the area and had no idea what Uber was. Either way when I was told and even when I was informed of what a “slug” was I was in disbelief. I would never get into a car with a total stranger who could take me anywhere or do whatever they wished. I would be at their mercy and thats scary. I read that Uber tracks the vehicles which makes me feel a tad bit better about it but tracking a vehicle isnt going to prevent a complete stranger from raping you. Unlike a taxi service, where people depend on the service they provide for their livelihood, Uber drivers seem to just be looking for a quick buck and have no boss to answer to if they do something wrong, or have a fear of losing their job. I understand that this type of transportation is huge up here but I feel people need to be aware of how dangerous this actually is.

  • azmd

    The last time I dealt with a regular cab company was trying to get a ride for my daughter and some friends in the suburbs of Boston. I believe I called 8-10 different cab companies, none of whom were willing or able to do an uncomplicated pickup at the Wellesley Hills train station on a Sunday morning at 11:30.

    After that, I told my daughter to get an Uber account. If cab drivers don’t like their passengers flocking to another business model, maybe they should take the hint that they need to improve the level of service that they are providing.

  • Tara Vitori

    Everytime that I have taken a cab to Dulles airport and back it has been the worst and one of the scariest experiences of my life. Good job UBER! I am sick of these rude taxi drivers acting crazy!

  • It’s interesting to look back on these articles and see the concerns that people had with a service that is now generally accepted as the norm. There are still many concerns with Uber and Uberx, rightfully so, as there are insurance gaps and limited registration requirements, but the majority of people overlook these issues. Uber has been able to ignore a lot of concerns and move forward. They are now getting a huge push back from taxi companies, but I’m sure they will clear this obstacle as they have with others.


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