Uber and Lyft’s bitter battle for ridesharing supremacy has long been overshadowed by the political battle for ridesharing legitimacy. Taxi companies have led the charge against ridesharing, arguing that services such as Uber and Lyft do not have the oversight of local regulatory bodies while unfairly competing with existing locally-regulated taxi services.
Despite heavy lobbying by taxicab drivers associations and other groups, ridesharing won a decisive victory in September 2013 when the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) decided to establish a new business category called a Transportation Network Company (TNC) to describe companies such as Uber and Lyft. In creating this new category, along with a series of rules and regulations, CPUC effectively legitimized Lyft and Uber in the country’s most populous state.
Uber recently stepped up its public affairs game by directly encouraging its users to lobby the California legislature to vote against AB 2293, which could kill ridesharing altogether. In an email to users, Uber wrote:
Who would have thought California, the cradle for American innovation, would take the lead in killing it. Governor Brown is committed to leading California into the future, but some in the legislature are anonymously doing the bidding of trial lawyers, big taxi and insurance lobbyists. Their bill, AB 2293, will be voted on THIS WEEK and would kill ridesharing in the Golden State.
If you want to keep uberX in California, now is the time to act. You are voting with your wallets every day – choosing Uber for a safe, reliable ride. Call your senators and tell them to stand up for Uber, your transportation options and the state’s future – not special interests.#CAlovesUber
Uber users responded in force online, taking to Twitter and other social media outlets to express their support for the company — and ridesharing overall.
Earlier this week, a contingent of Uber drivers pulled up to the state capitol and delivered more than 17,000 signatures to the bill’s prime proponent, Susan Bonilla (D) of the 14th District. The assemblywoman maintains her bill is meant only to protect consumers.
Uber doubled down on its quest to be the leader in ridesharing public policy by announcing that it had hired the political strategist David Plouffe to be its senior vice president of policy and strategy. Plouffe, who ran President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, said he planned to run Uber’s communication efforts much like a political race, pushing to win over both consumers and regulators as the company expands worldwide.
While Uber seems content to go it alone, it seems Uber and Lyft, along with other ridesharing companies such as Sidecar, would benefit from pooling resources to take on regulators that would like nothing but to see them all destroyed. For now, the companies have been left to use their own resources to fight individual battles in various markets nationwide. Though it seems unlikely that Uber and Lyft will ever partner in such a way, perhaps a third-party ridesharing lobby could arise to fight for the burgeoning industry in statehouses across the country, as well as on Capitol Hill.
Image credit: Flickr Photo Cindy
Based in Washington, D.C., Mike Hower is a writer, thinker and strategic communicator that revels in driving the conversation at the intersection of sustainable business and policy. He has cultivated diverse experience working for the United States Congress in Washington, D.C., helping Silicon Valley startups with strategic communications and teaching in South America. Connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter (@mikehower)