Will the City’s New Jitney Rules Cut Out the Little Electric Guys?

Electric-shuttle entrepreneur Erik Ibarra is worried about a new draft ordinance— due to be discussed by a city transportation committee on Tuesday and voted on by city council later this month — that he says raises the required minimum capacity for jitneys from 4 to 9 passengers. (The new provision appears to have been included at the request of taxi companies.) The founder of Rev Eco-Shuttle tells Swamplot officers of the city’s Administration and Regulatory Affairs department have told him the two 6-seater emissions-free carts his company currently uses to shuttle passengers around Washington Ave and the Downtown and Midtown areas at $5 a pop would be grandfathered under the new ordinance, but that any additional vehicles of the same design would be ineligible.

The department’s plan appears to be to regulate any new shuttles (along with pedicabs) under a separate set of rules for low-speed vehicles, but Ibarra says a draft of those rules is nowhere in sight, and he’d like to be able to expand his current business.

Ibarra had been encouraging the city to revise the jitney ordinance because of the hassles he experienced trying first to identify and then to comply with the existing rules. The entrepreneur famously spent 2 1/2 years trying to get the city of Houston to give him some kind of permit for his 2 all-electric vehicles, collecting plenty of citations from city officers along the way. His 2 carts finally received permits in December. Ibarra tells Swamplot both were actually revoked by the city in May, but he expects to receive new jitney permits within a few days.

Photo: Rev Eco-Shuttle

7 Comment

  • The city gives the taxi company too much power. F ’em.

  • Institute for Justice (ij.org) has struck these kind of economic protectionist regulations time and again. The jitney company should contact them. Their website has case descriptions (see the Las Vegas limo cases) to give you an idea.

  • The taxicab companies don’t want to see new and innovative competition from someone making eco-friendly investments, expanding their business(more jobs) or otherwise just sticking a nose in their domain.

    The fact theyre gonna say it’s ok for him to keep what he has but not expand just means they want to starve him out slowly so their slapdown isn’t so oblique.

    I hope City Council takes the high road on this one and sticks up for the little guy.

  • This looks like a textbook case of “regulatory capture,” where one company or industry influences the government to write regulations in such as way that public protection is not the main purpose–the purpose instead is to prevent new competitors from entering. (See also bail bondsmen.)

  • Why on Earth would City Council pass new rules like these that result in absolutely zero benefit for the citizens of Houston and only serve to benefit certain powerful corporate interests? Oh yeah. They’re politician. Fuck ’em.

  • It’s called The Houston Way. Kinda like The Chicago Way, only not quite as corrupt….. OK, not anywhere near as corrupt, but still corrupt. According to a well placed source who should really know the details of it, the city is supposedly developing separate ordinance regs that will provide for regulating and allowing the small electric jitney type vehicles.

  • The Tunnels downtown can only take you so far and it’s under foot power. Those of us that are worker beees downtown that have limited time for a lunch break can rely upon the ECO Shuttle to get us there and back without getting us in trouble with our employer, AND providing us with the affordable way to do it, without emissions. Now, I’m not a major “green” person to the greatest extent, but I do like to recycle, etc., and this guy offers a service similar to the bike cabs in NYC which are often utilized by locals, not only tourists. I say give him his permit and allow him to expand, in accordance with our capitalistic society, which is what our country is baed upon. Ooops, I forget…we’re becoming a socialistic one.