Why Lyft and Uber Make Me So Angry

Over the weekend, Bram from The Pittsburgh Comet asked a fair question – why does this situation make everyone so angry, no matter where they fall on the issue? It is possibly the most incendiary issue of the Peduto Administration if not recent memory. How did some cars with mustaches create such intense feelings, even causing rifts among local progressives?

Cars. Not drilling in County parks. Not the plight of Leon Ford, Jr. Not the plight of Bhutanese refugees caught up in a bureaucratic nightmare (now that’s a conversation about regulations worth having.)

I gave that quite a bit of thought yesterday. While I’m not sure my answer is particularly flattering, it is honest. And it only applies to me.  In my case, it boils down to this:

I fear that deregulation of the PUC is the inevitable next step and a slippery slope that bodes poorly for vulnerable people. Take a read of Rachel Tabachnick’s piece on Nullification and Neo-Confederates to see what I fear: the erosion of federal government. If the PUC regulations of the cab industry are the heart of the “not enough cabs” issue, let’s take a look at those regulations – not simply create exemptions for certain businesses because of their innovation. I had dinner with Rachel last week and heard her explain this in great detail. I fear people are people hoodwinked by issues rather than informed by policy and planning.  These aren’t companies backed by scrappy entrepreneurs. They are backed by Goldman Sachs. How can Goldman Sachs reasonably say they need special exemptions? Does that mean Google gets to flaunt regulations that interfere with their work in Pittsburgh?

Choosing to disregard bad laws for good purposes is one thing. Choosing to dismantle an entire regulatory process is a different matter altogether.

I also fear that people are putting their self-interest ahead of the common good and yet clinging to the notion that it is really best for everyone. It is great that you can now get a ride. But really, that’s not something that keeps me up at night. Cutting off bus service to the entire City of Clairton? That keeps me up at night. Frankly, when someone can admit that it is about self-interest and self-preservation (ie, classic modern economic indicators), I feel relieved. It is when they tie their self-interest to a larger common good that I grow suspicious. If you “just want to get a cab” please stop there. No further explanation needed as that is a very rational want/need. It is then a matter of whether your need trumps the regulatory process.

Next, I”m devastated that there’s been almost no LGBTQ activity from the Peduto Administration and we lost ground with the Fitzgerald Administration. No openly LGBTQ hires (lots of quietly gay hires.) No openly LGBTQ appointments (again …quietly gay.) No policy advancements. No work on municipal equality issues for the trans community. No new funding streams.  There has been some activity, but to be very blunt – Bill Peduto has put more time and energy into Lyft and Uber than all LGBTQ issues, even if you count the time he spent marrying couples at Pridefest. And that’s also exasperating. I think LGBTQ municipal equality is more important than giving an innovative cab company regulation exemptions. So I’m angry about that. Mind you, I’m not doing so badly in terms of municipal equality, but my community is really hurting. Really. Hurting. So this is very personal and hurtful to me because our community is literally last in line and that’s outrageous. I try to keep waiting patiently, but the pink mustache has become like a red flag in my eyes – I see red and get very angry. That’s not a constructive response.

The incident at Pride does not really count because that’s being reactive, not proactive. I’m looking for leadership that includes the LGBTQ community in Next Pittsburgh, not those of us who pass. You know exactly what I mean by passing. If you don’t, Google it.

Granted, some LGBTQ people have expressed a greater sense of personal safety using Lyft and Uber. And just like I don’t argue with people who shop at Wal-Mart for survival, I’m not going to argue with someone making choices to preserve their safety. But I’m not sure we can use that to subvert regulations. In fact, several of those same people said to me that they’d prefer to use jitneys so I opened up a thread on Facebook to learn more about how to use jitneys. It was pretty lively. And I am better informed on how to personally access a jitney which I would rather do.

In sum, I worry about the precedent of deregulation and I feel that this issue is getting more attention than my issue.  Does that make me guilty of the same self-interest I decry above? Probably. Actually, yes, it does. I am angry because waiting patiently for LGBTQ municipal reform efforts is difficult in these times and the fact that innovative cabbies are lauded over the LGBTQ residents of this region is dismaying.  I was so shocked that we might lose our health insurance benefits because of marriage equality that I lost my last shred of cool when it comes to Lyft and Uber.

I fear that innovation is trumping diversity. I fear that we turn a blind eye to racism (jitneys have been doing the indie cab thing for a long, long time) in the name of technology. I fear that well-intentioned white cis heterosexual people are making decisions for everyone else and disregarding the lived experiences of people who can’t escape oppression in a cab, a fast car or even a big yellow taxi.

After losing a FB relationship over this, I realize that I need to adjust my attitude. I can’t convince people that the oppression of LGBTQ people is more critical than access to taxi cabs. I can’t force the Administration to do anything at all. I can’t out the quietly gay white men who seem to control the dialogue. I can only try to be honest about how this looks and feels to one white middle class white cis lesbian who has a reasonable amount of municipal knowledge. I also can’t do anything about those who dismiss me as a malcontent crank with a diagnosis that renders me unable to have a coherent opinion on matters of public policy.

I think there are more important issues, including LGBTQ equality. But I can’t force anyone to agree with me.

So I’m going to default to a time-honored act of resistance. When I see that fucking pink mustache, I’m going to put a rainbow on it. Then I’ll take a deep breath, acknowledge that Next Pittsburgh isn’t currently interested in LGBTQ municipal equality and simply move on to another topic. Because there’s always something to get outraged about, right?

Lyft Uber Pittsburgh
Image via Tribune Review. Doctoring via me.





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