Dear Mayor Taylor and Members of the City Council:
I am writing to you today to support ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft. I understand that a vote has been scheduled for this Thursday on a draft proposal whose unnecessarily burdensome regulations would discourage these firms from operating in our city. I urge you to postpone any action on regulation of ridesharing companies this week.
A vote for this proposal would cast San Antonio as one of the few cities in the nation to resist the popular innovations in urban transportation that Uber and Lyft represent. It would seriously undermine the progress that we’ve made together in recent years to promote San Antonio as America’s next great city and a city on the rise — not a city that resists new technologies to protect incumbent businesses through regulation. Uber and Lyft will increase competition and force all transportation options to service us better.
As one of the founders of Rackspace, I’ve helped build a fast-growing, global company in San Antonio that has created thousands of good jobs here and on four continents. We see the city as a partner in our success, based on a mutual enthusiasm for the ways in which internet technologies and social media are reshaping our world for the better.
The key to Rackspace’s growth, in competition with giants like Amazon and Google, is what we call Fanatical Support: the exceptional service and specialized expertise that we deliver to our 300,000 business customers in 120 countries. We have built a culture at Rackspace that attracts talented engineers to San Antonio, and retains thousands of the ones who grew up here and once had to move elsewhere to pursue careers in Internet technology.
But our ability to lure and keep the talented people we need to run our company is affected by what San Antonio has to offer as a place to live. The Millennial generation has made clear, in surveys and by voting with its feet, that it wants urban living options in neighborhoods like those in Southtown and the Pearl Brewery area. Members of this generation also want modern, convenient transportation options that free them from driving a car and hunting for parking every time they want to go somewhere.
Most Millennials (and even many friends my age) use the Lyft or Uber apps on their iPhones whenever they need a ride. Such services, like the ones run by Uber and Lyft, are especially useful in cities like San Antonio, where low density and far-flung suburbs make for poor taxi service. In a growing number of cities, ridesharing services are enabling users to give up their cars entirely — easing traffic and parking for those who still drive.
Uber is highly popular in 250 cities worldwide, including Austin (where the service has won local government approval) and Dallas (where approval is expected this week.) These cities have declined to protect their incumbent taxi companies from fresh competition. And the users of ridesharing services have experienced no more safety or liability issues than have users of traditional taxis. Only two U.S. cities — Las Vegas and St. Louis — have rejected ridesharing services. Does San Antonio really want to join that club?
Ever since then-Mayor Julián Castro asked me to serve as a co-chair of his SA2020 initiative, I have worked, both as a proud native of San Antonio and as a real estate developer, to help build a more-vibrant city center. All great cities have attractive urban cores, including not only their downtowns but also the adjacent neighborhoods and commercial areas and parks. Across the country today, ridesharing services are a transportation option that Millennials use to differentiate innovative, livable cities — Austin, Boston, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle — from all the rest.
As the city’s leaders, you’ve worked hard to promote policies that keep our city on the rise. It is imperative that we not put that hard work at risk through onerous regulations that would drive both ridesharing services out of San Antonio. A vote in favor of the proposed ordinance would send
a message that San Antonio resists new technologies, new business models, and any new industry that disrupts the status quo.
Let us not be a city that resists change by regulating away consumer choice. The very competition that the traditional taxi industry fears is the same change agent that will force it to raise its game, to the benefit of San Antonio and its citizens.
Let’s take some time to do what hundreds of other cities have done to address any legitimate concerns about safety and liability, but in a way that doesn’t discourage ridesharing companies that have been welcomed almost everywhere else. Please work toward sensible, balanced ridesharing regulations in 2015 to arrive at a solution that makes San Antonio stronger and welcomes the innovation Uber and Lyft bring us.
Thank you for your consideration.
Rackspace Co-founder and Chairman Graham Weston
*Featured/top image: (FILE PHOTO) Graham Weston, chairman and CEO of Rackspace, introduces Mayor Julián Castro during Centro San Antonio’s “The Future of Downtown” luncheon, Castro’s last, scheduled address as mayor of San Antonio. July 10, 2014. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
This story was originally published on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014.
See all rideshare coverage here.