The Metropolitan Taxicab Commission (MTC) regulates all for-hire (and I guess now not for-hire?) vehicles in Saint Louis City and County. We’ve long been critical of the organization for overregulating the taxi market and blocking ridesharing companies from coming to Saint Louis. We’ve pointed out that having four of the nine commissioners represent the taxi industry is a clear conflict of interest. However, recent events call into question not just the MTC’s policies, but the policy of having the MTC at all.
Earlier this week, Uber announced that it would provide free UberX rides in Saint Louis for the Fourth of July weekend. That seemed like a huge benefit for the city, as the holiday week is notorious for drunk driving accidents. Free ridesharing has been a promotion many other cities, including Kansas City, allowed while policymakers worked out regulatory hurdles. But despite support from just about everyone, including Mayor Slay, the MTC said thanks but no thanks.
That action was bad enough, but subsequent statements by the MTC’s chair are downright embarrassing for that commission and the Saint Louis region as a whole. The chair of the commission wrote that complaints about Uber were down to “white privilege,” despite all the evidence that the entire Saint Louis community would benefit from ridesharing. The commissioner also openly insulted Chris Sommers, a more pro-ridesharing commissioner, for criticizing the MTC’s decision. Aside from calling on Sommers to resign and “work 4Uber,” the chair used extremely inappropriate language to disparage Sommers over twitter, completely unbecoming of a public official.
To sum things up, we have a commission with a chairman who is publicly insulting another commissioner and using race-baiting language to attack Uber. We have another commissioner who, last week, intonated that we should regulate just about every job that exists and said that Uber is a want, not a need in Saint Louis. Worse yet, those two individuals are among those commissioners who don’t represent the taxi industry. How can we expect this body to come up with efficient, modern for-hire vehicle regulations? Might it be better at this point just to dissolve the commission and start fresh?