We constantly complain about the abuse we endure from government. Especially the bureaucratic regulatory agencies and bodies of political appointees and elected officials.
Government is supposed to (and claims to) protect us from people who would hurt us, who would do evil things. This, in turn, justifies (in their eyes) government doing bad things to us.
Here is a recent example. As Paul Jacobs commented (as reposted by Freedom News Daily), the State of Colorado has shut down a ride-sharing organization and app, just weeks after it got started. This was reported by the Summit Daily of Colorado.
TreadShare was a classic example of how private individuals can take an old and workable idea (sharing a ride) and add some technology (a smartphone app) – and apply them to solve a problem. In their case, it was dealing with the horrendous traffic on I-70 west of Denver, going to the big ski areas.
Now, I’ve driven that stretch of freeway a lot over the years – about 45 to be exact. (Mostly business driving – I don’t ski at those ski areas.) This ride-sharing could help more people save money, save time, and save hastles by getting together with a (former) stranger or two and share their wheels to get to Ski Loveland or Copper Mountain or Breckinridge and back. Not only that, it will make the drive up and down the mountains safer and smoother (and faster) for everyone using that highway during ski season (or even other times). It could save lives and injuries and property damage by reducing traffic and accidents. And might even save money stolen from taxpayers by slowing the need to constantly repair, rebuild, and expand I-70.
Too much good things for a simple app to provide? Apparently so. It seems that the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, a three-person board appointed by the governor, has decided that TreadShare violates state law because it is an unlicensed “contract carrier” under Colorado Revised Statutes 40-10.1-602, which reads:
“‘Contract carrier’ means every person, other than a common carrier or a motor carrier of passengers under part 3 of this article, who, by special contract, directly or indirectly affords a means of passenger transportation over any public highway of this state; except that the term does not include a transportation network company, as defined in section 40-10.1-602(3), or a transportation network company driver, as defined in section 40-10.1-602(4).”
The Colorado General Assembly has determined that unless “contract carriers” are licensed by the state, they are a danger to the safety of the traveling public, the people in “their” vehicles, and their drivers. The PUC has decided that TreadShare is just like Uber or Lyft, even though the “drivers” don’t get paid except for sharing fuel and operating costs with those who are riding with them. And TreadShare itself isn’t even a for-profit enterprise. (Apparently, a “transportation network company” is something like RTD or some other government-owned and -operated bus company. Government usually exempts itself from its laws and regulations.)
This killed the idea, because there is an upfront cost of over $100,000 dollars per year license fee; and then hours of work and more cost in doing background checks, keeping records, reporting, and all the other things that bureaucrats love businesses and homeowners and others to do.
Of course, like anything else that government does, we should ask a couple of things. Or maybe two aspects of one question. First, where can we follow the money to? And second, whose ox was gored.
When consumers benefit by saving money, that means that someone doesn’t get some money they would otherwise. When consumers (and anyone) avoid having to follow regulations and avoid paperwork and fees, that means that some bureaucrat loses the opportunity to lord it over someone, expand their power, and ensure that they are paid.
In this case, who?
First, there are all the already-licensed “contract carriers” who will lose the opportunity to sell their services to folks wanting to go skiing and who don’t want to drive themselves. (By the way, that includes Uber and Lyft, who are playing the bureaucratic game.) The PUC is not the only board in the State of Colorado that looks out for the best interest of (some of) the companies that they regulate. These companies don’t like competition – especially if that competition avoids some of the regulatory costs and hassles.
And if six people can’t get together and share a ride in the van that one of them owns, that means five or six customers and fares those contract and common carriers don’t get.
Second, there is government itself. Reduce traffic, improve safety, then you can reduce the spending and the personnel that the State employs to keep I-70 humming. Now, we can’t have that, can we? But note. One of those exempt “transportation networks” is Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) itself. A couple of years ago, CDOT started operating “Bustang” passenger buses on I-70 (and now the “Snowstang” directly to ski resorts. All those contract carriers pay hefty fees and taxes to the various government agencies. Fewer private autos on the road due to ride-sharing mean fewer fuel taxes paid, to boot.
Oddly enough, the PUC seems to have no problems with governments running ride-share plans, like “My Way to Go” operated by the Denver Regional COG. Guess they can get away with it, huh?
But I suspect that the subconscious of these powers-that-be and their supporting bureaucrats may also be thinking something else. If private people can get together voluntarily and reduce the problems of getting back and forth from the ski areas to their urban or suburban homes, then what? Maybe they won’t think that the government needs to get involved in solving the “traffic crisis.”
And maybe – horror of horrors – they may think that they can solve OTHER “crises” and problems without government. On their own. Voluntarily. Cooperating instead of obeying.