Bieter Insiders Promote Gypsy Cab Scheme

The lobbying firm, “Strategies 360,” with a local office run by newly elected Boise School Board member Brian Cronin, has a special service to offer it’s apparent new client Uber.
Sign atop a taxicab in Paris, France.
That “special service” is ACCESS to city officials on behalf of the new gypsy cab scheme which debuted Thursday in Boise.

It doesn’t take much to connect the dots. Cronin’s political history includes numerous deals with Boise Mayor Dave Bieter. Cronin was awarded the lucrative contract to lobby on behalf of Boise City by Team Dave and has been active in Bieter political campaigns.

Casey Bender — formerly Casey Shelley — was also prominent in past Bieter political campaigns and fundraising. She is now listed as a staffer of Cronin’s Strategies 360 firm.
Her e-mail address was listed on the RSVP invitation to the Uber launch party.

Uber is a scheme which matches potential taxi passengers with owners of private autos interested in making extra cash. In Boise, fares include a $2.50 base fare, 25 cents per minute plus $1.75 per mile. You need to provide a credit card prior to riding and no money changes hands between driver and passenger. Uber takes a 20% cut of the action as we understand it.

The Uber taxi scheme has both proponents and opponents throughout the world. At first blush, it sounds cool to be able to use your smart phone to summon a ride and watch its progress to your location on the GPS screen.

Most cities have licensing requirements for taxis, but Uber essentially eliminates that step by claiming to require drivers to have insurance, a late model vehicle, a valid driver’s license and a background check. Boise’s taxi licenses are more stringent.

The city has decided to allow Uber to do a test market–competing directly with currently licensed taxis. Boise coppers have been instructed to refer all complaints to the city clerk (where cabs are licensed).

If it is “successful,” we see the distinct possibility of Uber dominating the taxi market, including currently licensed taxis which will be forced to join Uber or wither away. Uber will then walk away with a tidy 20% of the market dollars and not to buy cars, insurance, or pay drivers. Nice work if you can get it. This proves FARE may not be FAIR.

It may also be just as simple to run private cars in lieu of buses and just have an app to coordinate it. Think about it, eliminate the bus system and the various permutations of “circulator, trolley, street car, or train.” We can all be either passengers or drivers and not have to pay the outrageous taxes for buses and drivers — the private car owners get to pay.

The scheme is brilliant, but the “monopoly” aspect is troublesome.

FORBES has a well done discussion of the concept.

WIKIPEDIA has a well researched and documented account of the UBER story. There is as much bad as good to read.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Free market, Dave. The cabs in this town are awful. They may be licensed by the city – but man are they sketchy.

    Uber is a much better model – and anyone who has used it in a larger market will extol its virtues (me included). While the hookup to the mayor might be sketchy here — my advice: ride it before you deride it.

    EDITOR NOTE–We have no doubt it is a wonderful “app” and easy to use. We also like the novelty of “avoiding the regulators.” However, it may also be just as simple to run private cars in lieu of buses and just have an app to coordinate it…hopefully one not so well connected to the mayor. Heck, we could do the same for barbers, pharmacists, and all manner of currently licensed trades and professions.

  2. Dale Gribble
    Oct 3, 2014, 3:27 pm

    Good. Scrap taxi licensing altogether (don’t just give Uber special privileges). Why do we need the regulation when they are such a small percentage of the cars on the road? This isn’t NYC.

  3. Dale Gribble
    Oct 3, 2014, 3:48 pm

    “However, it may also be just as simple to run private cars in lieu of buses and just have an app to coordinate it”

    I think you’re on to something, Dave! This could be cheaper for the city than whatever we are paying for the crappy bus system that stops running at 6pm.

  4. So, when I stop at a red light and someone pulls open a door and gets in… it’s not necessarily a car-jacking?

    (As opposed to the under-the-table deal-jacking happening at City Hall)

  5. Dave, the sky is not falling. It’s more than an “app” and it’s a business model, not a “scheme.” It’s a legitimate business that competes with an existing business by using new technology. I wholeheartedly approve. I am just surprised the City officials aren’t falling all over themselves to figure out a way to stop it. If anyone has a monopoly it’s Boise City Taxi.. the only big licensed firm.

  6. Rod in SE Boise
    Oct 5, 2014, 10:45 am

    Uber might (or might not) be succeding in big cities. It may not be successful in a city like Boise.

  7. I wonder when the Bieter bashing will give way to this site reporting on issues the have some substance. I am no Bieter backer but he hasn’t squandered nearly as much money as other city govt. agencies.

    EDITOR NOTE–Rick, if you have FACTS about any city agencies squandering money, please do your civic duty and share. It just isn’t right to cover up squandering if you know of someone doing more squandering than Bieter.

  8. All these comments and not one word about insurance. How does that work? Does Uber require commercial grade insurance? And for that matter how do we know a regular cab company’s insurance hasn’t lapsed the day I call them for a ride.

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