By LAURENCE ILIFF
May 25, 2015 6:44 p.m. ET
MEXICO CITY—Hundreds of taxi drivers blocked main thoroughfares in Mexico City on Monday to demand that authorities crack down on the popular ride-hailing service Uber, which responded by offering free trips throughout the day to its users.
The protest against Uber Technologies Inc., its smaller Spain-based counterpart Cabify, and unlicensed cabbies turned parts of the capital’s streets into virtual parking lots dominated by the pink-and-white taxis that are licensed by the city government.
Riot police formed human walls in some places to prevent the protesters from heading into the core downtown area, home to the massive Zocalo plaza and seat of the Mexico City government.
Social media lit up, turning the hashtag #UberSeQueda, or “UberStays,” into a world-wide trending topic on the Twitter website. Uber offered its more than 300,000 registered users two free trips for up to 150 pesos (about $10) each. Uber’s minimum trip cost in Mexico City is about $2.65.
Supporters of the alternative car services posted on Twitter a litany of complaints against Mexico City’s notoriously aggressive taxi drivers, saying drivers will often tell passengers “I don’t have change,” “the taxi meter is broken,” or “I don’t go there.” Supporters of the taxi drivers suggested local authorities were favoring foreign interests over Mexican ones.
The battle pits the capital’s much-maligned but politically well-connected taxi organizations against the global ride-sharing giant as they compete for fares. At issue is whether Uber and similar services are illegal public taxis or legal private chauffeur services. Legal experts say current laws can be argued either way.
Mexico City authorities plan to hold public discussions to debate regulations to cover the emergence of car services not covered by the current law. At the same time, traffic police have cracked down on Uber, impounding cars and imposing stiff fines on the grounds they’re being used as unauthorized taxis.
Some Uber drivers have reported being verbally or physically attacked, particularly on weekend nights, when competition for revelers is greatest. Few of the attacks have resulted in injuries.
The Association of Organized Taxi Drivers, which held Monday’s protest, said Mexico City authorities have failed to apply transit laws to Uber, Cabify and unlicensed taxis. “It’s obvious that there is open protection of Uber, Cabify and the other 30,000 pirate [taxis] by the Mexico City government,” the group said in a statement. Taxi drivers have complained that, unlike the new services, they must pay stiff fees for licenses and charge fares set by the local government.
Luis de Uriarte, head of communications for Uber Mexico and Central America, said the car service is willing to participate in government forums to discuss ways to come up with regulations for the relatively new, smartphone app-based car services.
“We are thrilled to contribute to this debate,” Mr. De Uriarte said. He said Uber operates in more than 300 cities around the world under a variety of local transportation rules.
But he insisted that Uber’s operations in Mexico, where it began nearly two years ago, have been completely legal since its smartphone application simply provides a way for someone looking for a private car service to find one. “We maintain that we are within the law,” he said.
- Apr 18, 2018 "Rush Hour" by Luciana Kaplan Apr 18, 2018
- Mar 23, 2018 "Mobility in Sao Paolo" by Anneli Lucia Tostar Mar 23, 2018
- Mar 19, 2018 Mobility Technologies and the Future of Streets Mar 19, 2018
- Mar 19, 2018 Motorcycle Taxi Drivers, Mobility, and Politics in Bangkok Mar 19, 2018
- Mar 10, 2018 Mobility For All By All Mar 10, 2018
- Feb 24, 2018 Urban Environmental Justice Conference Feb 24, 2018
- Nov 13, 2017 World Wide Week at Harvard - Future of Cities Nov 13, 2017
- Sep 27, 2017 Initiative on Cities @ Boston University Sep 27, 2017
- July 2017
- Jun 5, 2017 Tartu Public Transport 2030 Jun 5, 2017
- Jan 30, 2017 Private Money, Public Spaces: What to Watch for in the Next Four Years Jan 30, 2017
- Jan 18, 2017 Publications on the Vienna Case Study Jan 18, 2017
- December 2016
- Nov 17, 2016 David van Traa and Urban Transformation in Amsterdam Nov 17, 2016
- Nov 16, 2016 Meeting of the Minds Webinar Nov 16, 2016
- Sep 28, 2016 Jan Gehl on the Politics of Transforming Cities Sep 28, 2016
- Aug 29, 2016 NextCity Article: Local Gov't Must Play a Role in Making Cities Smarter Aug 29, 2016
- Aug 16, 2016 Reinventing the Wheel Aug 16, 2016
- Jun 24, 2016 An ITDP Interview with TUT’s Project Director Diane Davis Jun 24, 2016
- Mar 7, 2016 How Lyft Taught Uber to Break the Rules Mar 7, 2016
- Jul 13, 2015 Walk21Vienna Talks with Ralph Buehler about Vienna's Transportation Jul 13, 2015
- May 25, 2015 Mexico City Cabbies Block Streets to Protest Against Uber May 25, 2015
- Jan 1, 2015 New York City’s Pedestrian Fatalities Lowest on Record in 2014 Jan 1, 2015