About this time, a variety of railroads began trying to build their own networks to the West, but the St. Louis city government refused to grant the permits required for constructing railroad bridges across the river at their location, even though St. Louis was the logical choice and would have been a perfect place for a rail hub. Apparently, the politicians in St. Louis felt their duty was to protect the riverboat industry, at that time their life and blood, from any and all competition.
– via LinkedIn PulseDon Peppers, native St. Louisan, wrote that paragraph about cities and states blocking Tesla from selling its cars to the public. Missouri is one of those states, preferring to protect incumbent car dealers from competition over allowing the market to determine winners and losers.
It’s funny, in a sad sort of way. St. Louis was one of the fastest-growing cities in the western world in 1850 when goods and people moved on water. Then the city leaders tried to prevent railroads from spreading. Instead, the railroads moved to Chicago, stunting St. Louis’s growth.
St. Louis is in steep decline. Not as steep as Detroit or Gary, Indiana, perhaps, but, St. Louis is headed toward minor city status. We’re about to lose our second (and final) NFL franchise. We are dead last in the country in business formation. And we’re the largest city in the country without UberX.
That last problem isn’t Uber’s fault: it’s the fault of St. Louis’s parochial mentality. St. Louis protects incumbents, even when the incumbents fail the people.
Two weeks ago, Uber announced free uberX rides for the Independence Day weekend in St. Louis. Mothers Against Drunk Driving found:
In California, drunk-driving crashes fell 6.5% among drivers under 30 in the markets where Uber operates following the launch of uberX in the state. That represents potentially 60 fewer drunk driving crashes each month — a total of 1,800 crashes avoided — since July 2012.
July 4 weekend being a period of partying, free uberX rides might have saved lives or avoided accidents and drunk driving arrests.
But the Metropolitan Taxi Commissions said “no” despite St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay’s strong support of the free rideshare offer, the MTC blocked uberX.
Kim Tucci, co-founder of The Pasta House restaurant chain and member of the taxi commission, last week exhorted St. Louisans to stop criticizing the city and start talking it up. Yet, Tucci’s own taxi commission exemplifies St. Louis’s greatest weakness: parochial attachment to incumbent, crony businesses at the expense of growth and opportunity. According to St. Louis Business Journal, Tucci is one of the commissioners blocking uberX in St. Louis by demanding excessive regulation of the service.
St. Louis is dead last in business formation among the 50 largest metro areas in the US. St. Louis has lost innumerable Fortune 500 headquarters in the last 30 years. Yet St. Louisans still protect legacy companies from needed competition.
The world moves on with or without St. Louis. In the 19th century, the railroads moved to Chicago. Eventually, uber will give up on St. Louis and move to a smaller city eager for the future of transportation.
And Kim Tucci will continue happily serving pasta to a shrinking, aging customer base, ignoring St. Louis’s sad decline.
Featured image by St. Louis photographer Naffziger clipped from www.stlouispatina.com.