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Ride share apps are all the rage, but is Cleveland ready?

Marc Lefkowitz  |  02/26/14 @ 10:00am  |  Posted in Transportation choices

“Disruptive” certainly describes the reception that ride-share smart phone apps Uber and Lyft have made in cities across the U.S. This week alone, the companies behind the two more popular apps that connect carpooling adults using mobile devices have been simultaneously praised and under attack.

Need a Lyft<br />Lyft ride share drivers adorn their cars with pink mustaches. Image from Lyft.

When a Lyft driver in California fatally wounded a 6-year-old girl last month, scrutiny rose on how much driver training and background checks these companies require. Lawmakers called for tighter regulations. And there are some legitimate concerns such as the way rider reviews can incentivize drivers to go too fast and sometimes act recklessly.

On the other side, tech advocates say these apps are another instance of filling in a market gap with innovation. Ride share could really help fill in a transportation gap in mid-market cities like Cleveland where taxis are few and far between. Environmentalists are generally supportive of transportation options that remove cars from the road and reduce vehicle emissions.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto told state regulators at the public utilities commission that he favors it sorting out the details that allow Lyft and Uber to operate in his city.

Next City reports that “The for-hire ride market has been raising some interesting tensions between states and cities...for cities are proving themselves willing to expose themselves to the vagaries of a less-regulated landscape in exchange for the benefits of innovation. That’s especially true when it comes to cities where, like in Pittsburgh, being on the front-lines of the taxicab market means being frustrated.”

At some point, Lyft and Uber will gain entry to Ohio markets. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio will likely set some rules of engagement for how these companies operate. It would be incumbent upon supporters of ride share apps—and disruptive technologies like it in Cleveland and other metros that have spotty taxi service—to start building support.

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