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Reality Check w/ John Tracy: It’s time Anchorage gets excited about Uber

By John Tracy 4:26 PM October 20, 2016

On a recent trip outside Alaska, I decided to find out what all the fuss was about concerning the ride sharing company Uber.

I’m not the most technically savvy guy, but even without the help of my teenager, I downloaded the app and reluctantly gave Uber my credit card number.

When I arrived at the airport, I pulled out the app and discovered an Uber driver was 3 minutes away. By the time I got to the curb, the car was there.

A ride that had cost me $60 by taxi on my previous trip now cost me $26 on Uber. No cash exchanged hands, it was simply billed straight to my credit card.

And I thought, why in the world don’t we have Uber in Anchorage? And yes, that was a rhetorical question.

Turns out Alaska is about to be the last state without Uber.

South Dakota and Wyoming were the other hold outs, and they’re reportedly about to launch boldly into the present.

But not Alaska.

We don’t have Uber, but what we do have is an exceptionally powerful taxi lobby.

Most of us who live here don’t take cabs, but it’s apparently a pretty good business.

At any given time there are about 150 cabs on the streets of Anchorage.

The permits are valuable. One was recently auctioned for $90,000.

A lot of permit holders lease their cabs to other drivers.

The Anchorage Assembly is now considering an ordinance to deregulate the industry and add more than 100 new cabs in the next five years. Permits would be awarded by lottery with a flat licensing fee of about $2,000.

The taxi industry knows the value of their permits would plummet.

And when you’re holding a permit that doesn’t have much value, in essence, you’ve got nothing to lose.

In fact, the taxi industry sees this new ordinance as a thinly veiled attempt to once again open the door to Uber.

Remember, Uber operated for free last year in Anchorage while trying to negotiate with the Sullivan administration, but eventually pulled out when talks went nowhere.

The talks are reportedly back on and I hope they come to an agreement.

It won’t mean the end for the taxi industry, but it could open the door to competition and lower fares.

And as much as we like to say we don’t care how they do it outside, in the case of Uber we should.

John’s opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of Denali Media or its employees.

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