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Uber X St. Louis rolled into existence on Friday.
No, Uber did not win the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission’s permission to operate. Instead, the ride-sharing service filed a federal anti-trade suit against the MTC.
In the first weekend, Uber X provided over 5,000 rides, mostly from people leaving bars between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. In other words, by defying the MTC, Uber X kept 5,000 drunk drivers off the road.
Uber X drivers typically drive six hours a week. They are not full-time taxi drivers. When I’m on the road, I use Uber almost exclusively–usually Uber X or Uber SUV if I am part of a larger party.
Last year in San Francisco, I met an Uber X driver. She’s in college and trying save money to go on a mission trip with her church. She was friendly and happy.
Friendly and happy also describes Lamont, another San Francisco Uber Xer. Lamont drives full-time. He’s a former taxi driver who described the move from a cab to the Uber as “freedom.”
“No one wants to ride in a cab,” Lamont told me. “They’re dirty. They don’t have to pick you up. You call a cab and you wait. Sometimes, they never show up. Uber always does.”
Meanwhile, Missouri legislators have vowed to shut down the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission during the next legislative session beginning in January. House floor leader Todd Richardson is reportedly among those leading the fight.
The MTC is composed of eight commissioners and a chairman. Four of the members are taxi company executives. Only one commissioner supported Uber X–Chris Sommers of Pi pizza restaurants. Meanwhile, fellow restaurateur Kim Tucci.
Uber X in St. Louis was as inevitable as were trains in the 1850s. St. Louis’s leaders blocked trains across the Mississippi to protect their cronies in the riverboat industry then, and the MTC tried to block Uber X to protect cronies in the taxi business.
In the end, government-led protection rackets always break down after inflicting a lot of damage on the people. Now, the MTC will face dissolution by Jefferson City lawmakers. It’s about time.