Boston's newest anti-Uber plan is just... dumb

Out in Beantown, Mayor Marty Walsh has already scored a number of victories over ride-sharing companies and in defense of the taxi companies and their unions. Some of these maneuvers are being held up by court challenges, while others have already been put in place. But there’s clearly no such thing as too much of a good deal when it comes to municipal politics, and Walsh is now pushing to put even more restrictions on companies like Uber and Lyft under the guise of “relieving traffic congestion” in Boston. This time it involves preventing drivers from picking up or dropping off passengers at their homes or destinations, instead, sending them to designated pick up and drop off areas.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh plans to roll out a set of transportation initiatives Thursday, including proposals to lower speed limits in neighborhoods to 20 miles per hour and create designated pickup and drop-off sites in certain areas for ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft…

The mayor’s focus on transportation in one of his most high-profile speeches of the year demonstrates the importance of a spiraling transportation crisis that has left some streets and neighborhoods in virtual gridlock, amid frustrating delays in the regional public transit system.

“These are things that are going to make a difference in people’s lives,” said Chris Osgood, chief of city streets and transportation, in discussing the mayor’s initiatives in advance of his speech.

As indicated in the linked article, there are more points involved in this supposed congestion relief plan. Perhaps I’m missing something here, but how is lowering the speed limit to 20 mph going to reduce congestion? Aren’t you just forcing people to spend even longer in those neighborhoods by making them drive more slowly?

The more pressing item, however, is this scheme to attempt to force Uber and Lyft drivers to only pick up and discharge passengers at designated points as if they were bus stops. You’ll notice that this restriction won’t apply to Walsh’s friends in the taxi business. Part of the appeal and convenience of ride-sharing is that the driver comes to get you wherever you are and drops you off as close as possible to your destination. Walsh is attempting to strip this ability out of the service without forcing the same penalty on cab drivers.

If this goes through it needs to be immediately challenged. Of course, that’s probably what not only Boston but all the major municipalities fighting Uber are counting on. As long as they keep Uber and Lyft tied up in the courts and bleeding money on legal fees, they can hope to wear them down. It’s the death of a thousand cuts theory being implemented by municipal governments.