Uber Is Finally Legal

So says the Supreme Court. That’s the good news
BY: DUSTY RHODES

Uber has been knocking on our door for a long time now, finally breaking through in La Paz a few months ago, although the taxistas there are still fighting it. But Uber hasn’t had success in breaking into Cabo or San Jose because the taxi cartel is just too politically connected here.

But now the transportation honcho for our state has announced that the Supreme Court of Mexico has ruled that “mobility” as they call it, (we would call it transportation), can not be held by anyone as a monopoly. So the governor announced he will stop opposing it. That’s the good news.

The bad news is, he’s vowing to regulate the living daylights out of any ride hailing app.

One rule will be users have five “trusted contacts” to share the data of each of their trips with, and another is that all responses, qualifications and feedbacks are recorded in the Uber platform and are reviewed by a team working in a “Center of Excellence” in Costa Rica. That center is supposed to solve any incidents in an average of between seven and eight minutes.

Also, Uber is promising that in Latin America the company has more than 1,280 employees who work in support and help solve any problems that arise. .

And further, in the case of Los Cabos, there need to be additional filters on our app, we need to use as either a rider or as a driver, that has on file an email account and a mobile phone number, which is confirmed in a message or text. However, we were able to use Uber without giving up this info and it’s likely this requirement will never come to pass unless the taxistas get a clue and pursue it. Uber has said, "Our commitment is that the driving partners and users feel safe during trips.“ Translation: Uber will say anything to get a toe hold. What they will actually do, remains to be seen.

Uber has been in Mexico since 2013 and is present in 41 cities, where it has more than 8.5 million users and around 250,000 registered driver partners. It’s taken so long to arrive here in a high end tourist city because so much money is at stake. Our taxi drivers charge so much money that they’re willing to go to extremes to protect their position, and the money attracts politicians to be involved in the industry. An example of the egregious way we’re treated by taxi drivers is a ride to Cabo San Lucas from half way out on the corridor is about $40 US. More than a dinner costs, so many tourists hunker down in their hotel, never leaving. Local Mexican business owners suffer.

They are already talking about requiring Mexican citizenship to be a driver, it has not been decided yet, so although it’s up in the air, don’t get your hopes up.

A new layer of government called the  “Institute of Mobility” in Baja California Sur will be responsible for setting the rates in Southern Baja, and for granting concessions for all transportation, and the respective permits on all platforms, taxis and smart phone apps. That new agency will also be responsible for seeing that the cars come up to safety standards. Don’t expect safety standards as you know them, as many of the cars built in Mexico are so flimsy, they can’t be exported to the United Stats because they can’t meet safety standards. Cars that are exported are built to US standards.

Governor Mendoza said in his announcement that, "The concessions of public transport of people must always be delivered in a transparent manner for justified reasons, for safety and for the exclusive benefit of the users.”  Of course he didn’t say that until the Supreme Court made him open up the industry. “There will be no political favors and less corruption,” he continued. Notice he didn’t say no corruption, only less. Apparently less is the best we can hope for. Kind of like the way they fill potholes with sand. “Hey, we filled them”.

The Governor pointed out that in order to draft this initiative, five citizen forums were held in each of the municipalities, with a total of 500 people participating. No, you were not invited, you’re only the foreign end user, this is apparently none of your bees wax.

"We want the government to decide who will or will not be the taxi driver, who will or will not provide the transport service, and we want citizens to be those who, through well-established and regulated transparent mechanisms, define it,” the governor said. Finally, the initiative was given to the State Congress so the local deputies could  "legislate in favor of society".

And now for how this is working out so far: Not too well, initially. Yes, we were able to go for a ride using our US based app, and it was good, and fast, and cheap and even polite and smiley, which no taxi driver will ever be polite and smiley. We tipped lavishly, more than the ride cost, because the ride was a pittance.

However, the first weekend our mayor, who ran on the platform of not allowing any ride hailing services, ever, sent city police to stop any Ubers they could find within hours after the governor announced he was dropping his opposition. Four drivers were detained, their customers told to get out, and the car confiscated. The fine is officially about $300 but they got their cars back the next day for about half that. Police are monitoring the app and tracking down people who use it, stopping them and pointing to the ride on their phone.

One final ha ha: The taxi drivers have announced they now have their own ride hailing app, and please use it. They promise more polite service at cheaper prices. When we tried it, the app was not operational.

By the time you read this, Uber will probably be working fine, and all opposition will be gone. If not, the ride hailing app Andale is a good option. It has been operational here for months, but we’ve been reluctant to mention it much because we want to help them fly under the radar. They are out of Texas.