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In R Street Institute’s new study “Ridescore 2015: Hired Driver Rules in U.S. Cities” researchers Andrew Moylan and Zach Graves evaluate the regulatory environments for vehicle-for-hire services in 50 of the largest U.S. cities. The study is the first to compare different policies following the emergence of transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft.  

Despite some cities originally adopting a “ban first, ask questions later strategy”, the findings in Ridescore 2015 point towards “consistent, albeit modest, improvement. Of the 50 cities in our analysis, 29 improved their scores this year, while only one earned a significant double digit drop.”

A city earns a score between 0-100 based on how it regulates TNCs, taxis and limo services:

“When all three subgrades are combined, it yields an overall ‘Ridescore’ for each city that approximates the friendliness of its transportation regulation. Forty percent of this score is derived from a city’s treatment of TNCs, 40 percent from its approach to taxi regulation, and 20 percent from its limo rules”

TNC regulations are judged based on answers to the following three questions:

           1) Can TNCs operate legally within the city?

           2) How hostile is the city’s regulatory framework for TNCs?

           3) Are the city’s insurance requirements disproportionately high?

30 out of 50 cities improved their TNC score “owing to the proliferation of largely reasonable ridesharing bills across the country” leading the researchers to say “it’s not unreasonable to project that every state will have a statute on the books by the end of 2016.”

Seattle is the only city to decrease its TNC score by double digits:

“The city that saw the biggest drop in its TNC-friendliness score was Seattle, which fell 17 points from 100.0 to 83.0. The Emerald City was a success story last year… Unfortunately, that success was undermined this year with the city’s subsequent imposition of a questionable “knowledge test” for TNC drivers, new fees on all TNC rides, and a nascent effort to unionize drivers for the first time. Combined with the city’s previous efforts (later vacated) to cap the total number of TNC drivers to just 150 (in a city with a population of more than 650,000) Seattle received a 15-point deduction for hostility… Seattle’s final score put them 38th nationwide in TNC friendliness, after placing first last year.”

In contrast, regulations for taxis remained almost completely unchanged:

“Unfortunately, successful efforts to craft and implement appropriate TNC regulations across the country have not, to date, generally been accompanied by commensurate efforts to liberalize the often-onerous rules governing taxi markets. Cities’ median score for taxi friendliness in this year’s report was 75.0, nearly unchanged from the 74.7 we recorded last year.”

The same is true for limos:

“Much as in the taxi-friendliness category, the picture of limo friendliness is little changed from last year. In 22 cities, there was no change in score, while six others saw changes of less than one full point. Another 19 cities saw modest movements of less than 10 points, generally reflecting small changes on two components that measure insurance requirements. As a result, both the average score and standard deviation are essentially unchanged from 2014.”

The study is an invaluable resource for tracking nationwide responses to the emergence of ridesharing platforms.  The researchers hope the analysis can “provide state, county and city lawmakers with a road map to a system of simple, fair and modest regulation that will allow transportation services of all types, including those not yet envisioned, to flourish.”