Here is the rant I just sent to NPR, regarding their recent Marketplace segment, "Why ride sharing companies are absent from SXSW":
As a transportation scholar who has conducted research on e-hailing services, including Uber and Lyft, I was surprised and disappointed to hear Molly Woods’ one-sided reporting from the SXSW conference. Your segment, “Why ride sharing companies are absent from SXSW” is 1) misleading (there are plenty of e-hailing companies in Austin, including both taxicabs and “ridesharing” services), and 2) your segment did not actually address the question of why Uber and Lyft are absent!
Uber and Lyft voluntarily left the city to avoid regulations which the voting public approved of. Regulatory limitations on Uber and Lyft, as well as AirBnB, are based on serious considerations of economic and social welfare—but these were dismissed as “quirky” on NPR, the one network from which we expect a more critical and even-handed perspective, now more than ever.
Just as infuriating were the implications that, for daring to challenge these corporations, Austin is somehow backwards, or non-tech-friendly. While other cities are still stuck with Uber and Lyft, Austin is incubating the next generation of e-hailing services—more responsible, and more accountable than the corporate giants.
What the world wants to know—and what NPR can more responsibly report on—is how well these new, non-Uber-and-Lyft e-hailing companies are servicing Austin. We all know that companies like Uber are unsustainable. Austin is the place where we see what will happen next—please give us some reporting on that.
I normally try to stay away from comments or emails like this, but this time I couldn't help it. I think I showed great restraint by not even asking them why they are still calling it "ridesharing" (though they must know better by now)...
I haven't looked closely at what has been happening in Austin since my early post about "ridesharing" apps swarming into Austin, right after Uber and Lyft left. It would be great to see some real reporting on how the new, local apps are working out. For a good start at this, see this recent article on Shareable.
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