Uber arrives in Puerto Rico, amid chaos
With a legal battle between the Public Service Commission, the Transportation Department, and Uber, the latter began its operations in Puerto Rico on July 11 without required permits. The Public Service Commission filed a cease-and-desist order against the company. The case involves deciding how and by whom Uber should be regulated by, the Public Service Commission or the Department of Transportation and Public Works. Uber is claiming that the Department of Transportation and Public Works gave them authorization to begin operations and should continue to regulate them in Puerto Rico.
On July 20 the Court of Appeals of Puerto Rico revoked an order by a lower court that seeked to stop Uber in Puerto Rico. Uber now seems to be on the right track again to cover the island after having launched in a rather chaotic way in Puerto Rico.
Uber currently operates in 482 cities around the world with Puerto Rico being one of the newest locations. The service launched on July 11 with a day of free rides for users. The reception was one of anger as local taxi drivers opposed Uber drivers. Thousands of Taxi Drivers protested the company as they fear that their business will be hurt, even more so after the island’s decade-long recession. 100,000 people are set to lose their jobs according to Puerto Rican Taxi Drivers Federation chief Juan de Leon if Uber and similar services are allowed to prosper in Puerto Rico.
There is not much that can be done to stop the popularity of Uber. With public transportation almost nonexistent in Puerto Rico, people can only rely on taxis and other vehicles. With Uber there is more opportunity as the taxi service in Puerto Rico has been criticized heavily, mainly for its high prices and difficulty in finding taxis. It is possible to see a spike in tourism if Uber can establish itself and advertise the island more. Legislators have already approved the private ride corporation.
Other companies such as Lyft and Wingz who operate under GPS technology, are now also allowed to roam the streets of Puerto Rico. Uber will find itself in conflict with the Tourism Industry in Puerto Rico, “A regulation for the online transportation network industry has not been approved. Until a regulation is duly approved and a license is issued under such regulations, an online transportation network cannot offer service in the island,” Puerto Rico Tourism Company Executive Director Ingrid Rivera Rocafort said. Popular Democratic Party Senator Antonio Fas-Alzamora in early 2015, tried to facilitate the entrance of private companies such as Uber, because of the damage he felt it would do to the local market, by introducing senate bill 1209.
Uber is not new to being met with protesters when opening up in new cities. Other cities known to have protested Uber included Mexico City, Paris, and Sao Paulo. Many are celebrating Uber saying that it’s a company that will help the island of Puerto Rico by creating new and flexible jobs for people that might need it. With a large unemployment rate, Uber might just be crucial enough at putting people back to work in a community that desperately needs it.
photo credit: Uber upfront fares will continue to be introduced globally via photopin (license)