As the rise of the sharing economy transforms commerce and transportation, regulatory agencies have been slow to catch up to these new collaborative consumption models. The latest example has unfolded in San Francisco. Several car sharing services, including InstantCab, received a letter from San Francisco International Airport’s management demanding that all of the service’s “community drivers” cease all trips to and from the airport’s property.
The nasty-gram from SFO is a definite sign of the sharing economy’s success, especially among carsharing services such as InstantCab. Read reviews on Yelp, and one realizes what a success InstantCab has become considering how fickle the Yelp crowd can often be. Founded by an entrepreneur who missed an international flight after yet another San Francisco public transportation meltdown, InstantCab has emerged as a sharing economy star due to the combination of its technology, success in vetting drivers and rabid community of passengers who rave about scoring a cost-effective lift across town quickly.
The cease and desist letter InstantCab’s management received is about what anyone would expect from a stodgy government transportation authority. Note that the letter actually does not apply to licensed cab drivers: the community of drivers, as the letter stated, “do not have a permit to operate a business on SFO premises.” And hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat whose turf is scorned, as the letter continued on to state that anyone who “violates, disobeys, omits, neglects or refuses” to heed Rule 2.2 may be banned from the airport’s use by the director--assumedly this applies to passengers and not just drivers?
As anyone who has struggled to score a ride to SFO can verify, it is not always an easy task, especially for those in the Richmond and Sunset districts who have no seamless access to BART. And as any passenger who has arrived at SFO, especially at night, can relate, finding transportation to San Francisco and the surrounding area can often involve a long wait at the taxi stand. So the reality is that the Airport Commission will have to find a way to sort out this mess--just as the California Public Utilities Commission is currently sorting out how to regulate carsharing at the state level.
So watch for these phantom taxi airport rides to continue; and in the meantime, give InstantCab credit for its cheeky spoof of the cease and desist letter: an InstaCab staffer rewrote the letter to give it a more collaborative (consumption) tone. The hopeful tone of the letter belies the fact that transportation in San Francisco, as in much of the country, is inadequate considering the local population’s needs--and a streamlined permitting process fair to everyone is necessary to keep the city’s citizens moving. It will happen: it just always takes democracy, and especially civil servants, time.
Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is the editor of GreenGoPost.com and frequently writes about business sustainability strategy. Leon also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable Brands, Inhabitat and Earth911. At Better4Business in Anaheim on May 2, he will join a panel discussing how companies can present their CSR initiatives to the media. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).
[Image credit: Leon Kaye]