“Not only is the taxi world getting more international, the whole regulatory world is getting closer as international brands are developing, universal apps are being created and integrated with each other and technical issues challenge both the industry and its regulators.”
On the simple question whether the taxi and FHV industry is an international business, IATR-president Matt Daus – whose horizon has never been particularly national – quickly recognizes how both the industry and its regulators are developing more internationally, creating more intricate international ties. In this interview, following hot on the heels of his association’s New Orleans Annual Conference at the end of September, Daus swiftly claims that his organization played a large part in this internationalization. “From relative disinterest in what is happening in other countries, we have moved rapidly to frequent, sometimes quite robust, but always meaningful discussions. The IATR’s membership has never been so large and New Orleans – with over 200 participants – was our biggest conference.”
But isn’t that only because of the worldwide rallying cry of ‘The apps are coming’?
“In New Orleans I spoke of the New World Order: things are changing fast. Not just technical issues. It is these technical issues that are bringing other things to a head. For instance, more often you now see mayors looking at the state of the taxi industry in their city, because bids for conferences, large sports events and other important activities that draw large crowds, now include the quality of transportation – and not just public transport. Taxi is now essential. The Australian state of Victoria for instance took a long hard look at its taxi system, and made attempts to reform it, just as London is currently conducting an inquiry. Mayors demand reforms when the system is below par, and with political changes in the US, cities such as Chicago, San Francisco, New Orleans and others have implemented comprehensive reforms recently like we did in New York City in the late 1990’s.”
Isn’t it usually a defense against apps?
“Yes, but apps have also revived accessibility as a new issue and a form of defense against apps. And in this area, where we have just presented our model standards based on best practices around the world, IATR, which led with model regulations for regulators, has always been ahead of the curve. And we have other new projects, like model regs for pedicabs/rickshaws, security cameras/partitions and smartphone apps.”
Do you see IATR having any influence on app-regulation?
“When we launched our model regulations on the basis of best practices, the TNC’s as we call them, the Transportation Network Companies, felt threatened and developed their own model regulations – of course with their own spin on it. Our question was not ‘Should we regulate TNC’s?’, but rather ‘HOW should we regulate TNC’s?’ The IATR’s model regs for apps forced the disruptors and the lawmakers to shift the debate from no rules to rules – while not ideal, it is a major victory. The models regs and the accessibility standards give regulators the tools to regulate them in their own jurisdictions. We need to protect the public and enhance the service. TNC’s need to be regulated like any other entity that offers a transportation service.”
But often regulators’ efforts are thwarted by local politicians.
“Yes, some regulators were not allowed to attend IATR’s conference, others were influenced not to go. Politicians and regulators sometimes have wildly different outlooks on regulation of TNC’s. Often the public doesn’t understand it. TNC’s have very vocal and active memberships, which they mobilize immediately if the public debate about regulation doesn’t go their way. They tend to weigh in on the debate, sometimes with warnings and threats. Often with lots of money to hire lobbyists and public relations people to sway the public discussion their way. The fight is part of their marketing efforts to get press and attention focused on their apps.”
Is the US leading or lagging in that debate?
“In some ways the US is behind the rest of the world and in other ways it is ahead. We were grappling with the TNC-issue well before anyone else. We were warning the folks in Europe and in Australia for what was coming their way, whilst some were in denial that it would affect them. The reality is: the US is Ground Zero for the TNC’s, they started in San Francisco and spread out from there. Other apps followed a different path and came to the US, like Hailo or GetTaxi for instance. The generic picture of who is ahead, who is lagging, differs with the country you’re operating in. The EU is very different from the US. You have a great history when it comes to sustainability. There you are ahead. We borrowed examples from Sweden for safe traffic and sustainability, but it is often US technology that historically spreads around the world. Canada for instance has a great history in accessible public transport. So it varies.”
Any valuable lessons to be learned from one or more countries in particular, when it comes to TNC-regulation?
“One interesting approach we have learned from Australia.
Read more at Taxi times Print-Issue.