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More Central Planning in Austin?

Too many cabs? City ready to cut back

New Yorkers have long grumbled that there are too few taxis to serve their city, especially on a rainy day when catching a coveted cab can turn into urban sport.

Austin isn't Manhattan. And when it comes to taxis, this city's problem isn't a cab shortage; it's a cab surplus -- at least according to those in the driver's seat.

Responding to pressure from Austin taxi drivers who say that their livelihood is threatened by too many cabs and too few passengers, the city is offering a deal that many in this faltering economy would grab in a New York minute.

They are proposing to cut future competition.

If the City Council signs off on the deal Thursday, Austin will become one more city on a growing list around the country to place what amounts to a moratorium on the issuing of taxicab permits -- much to the chagrin of some of the city's expansion-minded taxi franchise owners, who argue that the ordinance would make it harder to find a cab.

Central planning, encouraged by people who can't handle competition. I can't recall who said it, but I do agree that often the biggest enemies of capitalism are business owners who want the easy way out rather than innovate and work hard.

The simplest answer to stupidity like this is twofold:

  1. Do away with the $400 permits and allow anyone who has the desire and capability to run a taxicab to do so. This would drive the numbers of taxi cabs in Austin up, since the barriers to entry would be so low.
  2. Once real competition sets in, those who are unable to compete would leave the market. Competition drives down profit margins so eventually people would back out of the market. Such moves would eventually stabilize into a situation where the free market decides how many cabs Austin needs because the people who use the cabs would be the ones making the choices.

It's like no one has any concept of how supply and demand works.
"It's one thing to say we need to have so many taxis per person, but if the population isn't riding in the taxis, the ones who lose out are the drivers," said Hannah Riddering, 50, who has been driving a taxi on and off since the 1970s and fighting for an ordinance change since 1988.

"The drivers have to earn a decent living out here."

Oh, they have to? At the expense of those people who also want to drive a cab? You don't deserve the protection of the state because your livelihood is diminishing.

UPDATE(11/21/2003 1:10am)
More here. It seems the Council may have changed it's mind.

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