Travelers who have been held hostage by the state’s monopolistic taxi industry have been trying to flag down an alternative for years and this week the city of Albuquerque gave the ride-sharing company Uber a six-month green light to drop off and pick up passengers at the International Sunport.
As the company appeals rules set by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission – including an over-the-top requirement drivers be covered by at least $1 million in insurance from the moment a ride-sharing app is turned on rather than when a passenger gets in – Mayor Richard Berry has approved a deal that charges Uber $1 for every airport pickup or drop-off; that’s compared to the $1,193 a month each of the four local taxi companies pay.
“It is important that we welcome innovators into our community while setting a level playing field for those who have made long-term investments as well,” Berry said. “We think we’ve struck a good balance on this.”
He adds that “we want to be a city of innovation; we want to be a forward-thinking city. Uber has contracts and agreements with cities all over the United States and all over the world. There’s no reason Albuquerque, N.M., should be in a situation where we can’t provide the opportunity for the citizens here.”
As a city of 600,000 with a budding innovation field, a thriving film industry and an extensive hospitality and tourism sector, Albuquerque, along with the rest of the state, can no longer afford the protectionist system that allows existing cab companies what amounts to rights of first refusal on any competition while folks wait for hours or in vain for a ride that’s not competitive in quality or price.
Unless and until the Legislature wrests itself from the taxi industry’s control, it will be up to alternative systems such as Uber (and Lyft, which pulled out of the state when the PRC put its rules in gear) to deliver service along with its local and visiting passengers alike.
Thankfully, Albuquerque has cleared Uber for at least a limited takeoff at the Sunport. It will be telling how many riders use it in the next six months.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.