What’s Fueling Houston’s Medical Boom; Uber’s Latest Demands


Photo of Meyerland: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool


22 Comment

  • From the Uber article:

    “In the outer areas, my district in northwest Houston outside Loop 610, we didn’t have anything to depend on (before Uber). There are a few people that it has been a convenience for them to appreciate, but (if Uber leaves Houston), it’s not something that will shut down transportation as we know it. People will get in a car or call a cab,” Stardig told the HBJ.

    What an idiotic statement. I’m guessing this person is a shill for Yellow Cab. Inside the loop, and even to/from the airports, Uber is now essential and ubiquitous. They’re always 5 minutes or less out and have been very personable – not to mention the rates blow the cab companies out of the water. I hate this bureaucratic red tape dance that any disruptive company must go through so the slimy politicians can keep the wheels greased.

  • I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask Uber drivers to submit a fingerprint background check and have insurance for their passengers. Uber drivers provide a convenient and useful public service, but it’s fine for a city to want its own safety standards beyond just trusting Uber to do the right thing. Requiring a fingerprint DPS background check rather than a “third party screening” that is subject to Uber’s discretion seems like the kind of regulation cities can and should make. Plus, if the regulations were really that onerous, Uber would’ve pulled out long ago.

    Let’s be honest what this is really about – Uber is fighting for an ordinance in Austin that would prohibit the city from asking for fingerprint background checks. In order to make a convincing argument, Uber can’t be over in Houston making money while subject to a similar provision. Of course, it helps that Houston is legally barred from releasing any records relating to Uber permits thanks to a lawsuit Uber filed against the city. Conveniently we are stuck with only Uber’s version of events as they talk about how terrible regulations are for them.

    Once again, Houston is just a pawn in a political battle happening in Austin, but instead of the legislature causing problems it’s a company that is trying to muscle its way into the best possible business environment, all other concerns be damned.

  • it would be awful if Uber left Houston. the number of drunks Uber keeps off the road can’t be understated.

  • I am one of those drunks that UBER keeps off the streets. It will be so sad to see them go. I use them often when going out for a cocktail or two (why take the risk). Further, compared to driving in a Houston cab it is like being in a limo vs a jintney cab. Houston cabs are almost always gross and smell horrid.

  • If Uber wants to sell a taxi service, then Uber needs to follow taxi service rules. It isn’t disruptive just to refuse to follow the same regulations as everyone else in your industry. Is the taxi industry corrupt? Maybe. Probably. Work with local citizens to fix it. Until then, if you want to play, you have to pay.
    Also, I keep hearing that Uber is complaining about the CoH background checks that duplicate Uber’s own checks. If Uber is already performing those checks then it should be that much easier to pass the CoH ones.

  • If the COH runs off Uber, so help me God, I will make some snarky posts on the interwebs.

  • Über will regress to the mean as it gets nearly regulated out of existence, but maybe conventional cab companies, after having a near-death experience, will improve their service.

  • Playing devil’s advocate: How would you like it if a new competitor for your job or business sails into town and doesn’t have to follow the same regulations as you do? You’d be screaming bloody murder. Uber drivers are independent contractors, not employees (except in CA, where they lost a lawsuit), so they don’t get any benefits. The Uber model is poised to be replicated across a lot of different services, so expect more controversies to arise in the future.

  • UBER article. For all the Uber fans out there, here is just a little recent reminder of issues around their current background checks re: Kalamazoo mass shooting and other incidents.. As the article states, Uber received a complaint call about this guy from a customer right after his ride, but did nothing to contract the driver or address the issue (he continued to drive between shootings). Uber has an arrogant attitude toward other transportation business and regulation that makes it difficult to love them. Certainly can’t blame them for mass murder, but come on, what’s the problem with a little extra checking? I have to go though it to get a job, and I don’t have anyone’s life in my hands. If Uber leaves, someone else will come in to provide the service.


  • I’m thinking of starting a lawfirm where my employees provide their own desks, offices, and malpractice insurance. And they don’t have to take the State Bar exam or the ethics exam – I have developed a proprietary competency exam that ensures that they’ll be totally competent and ethical – trust me, it would be bad for my business if they weren’t! I’m disrupting the industry, bro.

  • Über just breaking the law is not a Techinoligical Disruptor, it’s just breaking the law. Uber also takes advantage of the gullibility of he drivers. They sell “work part time make lots of money” but in reality once you factor in fuel, wear and tear on your car, and opportunity cost lost then the drivers make below minimum wage and sometimes don’t even break even.

  • Road chick – are cab driver’s employees ? Not being a smart ass, I just thought they bought their own cars and were independent contractors using the advertising, maintenance, gas discounts and dispatching of their posted company. I’ve never bothered to ask a cab driver.

  • Sorry RoadChick, they didn’t lose, they settled, and Drivers are still independent contractors.

  • Being an Uber driver is financially feasible in maybe 30 days total the entire year.

    – Rodeo
    – Oil and Gas Expo
    – Medical Expo
    – New Years
    – 4th of July
    – St. Patricks Day
    – Cinco De Mayo

    Otherwise surge rates are not really that great.

  • Uber Black is a life saver to arrive in style and tipsy. If they left and I had to ride in a taxi again I would just die, simply die my darling, ha!

  • I’d probably feel just as safe using an app to log in to see nearby drivers and pick myself a random one based on his posted credentials, experience, background and user reviews, like combining airbnb with linkedin or something. What the city may not understand is even if this is less safe than regulating the hell out of the industry, it gives consumers much more power, knowledge and confidence in their driver than what the current system allows. That is why a large number of consumers feel just as confident if not way more so using uber than they do yellow cab or the like.
    What uber has proven is that there is a huge need for change within this industry. Drivers shouldn’t have to mortgage their lives to afford a taxi medallion to operate as it shouldn’t be the cities business how many cars are on the roads driving people around (hello, congestion pricing can solve all your problems at once). Consumers should have more tools in their hands to make choices. I don’t know enough about the regulations aspect but it does make you wonder how many industries require city approved background checks for drivers: trucking, package delivery, greyhound, shuttles (commuter, airport, events), hot shots, catering?

  • @j, I think it depends on the company. Bigger taxi services own the vehicles and lease them to drivers. Many drivers are unionized so they can enter into collective bargaining over wages, hours and work conditions. Houston has a local union: http://www.houstontaxidriversassn.net/

  • Here’s what I like about Uber:
    * Cheaper than a cab
    * Cleaner than a cab
    * Easier to hail than a cab
    * Faster to arrive than a cab, even in out-of-the-way places
    * Drivers are more accountable than a cab due to ratings system
    * Lower price for a taxi-like service has the effect of increasing the number of riders, reducing demand for parking, and also mitigating risks from drunk driving

    And here’s my response to concerns about passenger liability insurance and driver pay:
    * I voluntarily accept the terms of my agreement with Uber
    * Driver voluntarily accepts the terms of his/her agreement with Uber

  • Just FYI, we do have an alternative to Uber in Houston (it’s called GetMe) and they seem to be able to operate under City regs just fine. Used them once and they were just as fast as Uber (I even think some Uber drivers also drive for them too.) My guess is that if Uber pulls out of the City, they better be ready to pick up the slack.

  • Re: Uber
    I have to echo the succinct list of advantages that Uber has over cabs as listed by The Niche. My impression of local cab drivers are they are the most inept drivers in the city: bad driving, illegal lane changes, not familiar with city streets, and poorly maintained vehicles. All of this is fostered by a lazy and inept city regulatory scheme.
    Say what you will about Uber, the free market maintains some kind of discipline on how far they can let standards go.

  • “Just FYI, we do have an alternative to Uber in Houston (it’s called GetMe) and they seem to be able to operate under City regs just fine.”

    This is the kind of service that seems to call for maybe a certification as opposed to regulation. Certify GetMe as operating under the safety regs and let the customers decide if they are willing to pay $0.xx more per mile for that.

  • They Mayor should stand his ground. Fingerprints and a background check is not that difficult and it makes sense. Nobody should support a bully, even Uber.