"In an era of scare tactics and corporate intimidation," reads the group's statement of purpose, "we believe the public deserves to know the truth about Big Taxi."
One of the reasons you might see this campaign now is that the mix of opinion swirling around over Uber indicates that it's operating on a still very unsettled playing field. The company, of course, wants the public behind it as it faces regulatory challenges across the country. There are score of people who love Uber. And there are scores of people unsettled by the aggressive tactics they seem to be using to recruit drivers. But the Venn diagram of those two constituencies seems to overlap considerably. And that presents for both sides what political organizers like to talk about as a crisitunity.
And so a big part of what we're seeing is a language war. The pro-Uber side is doing its darnedest to brand the existing taxi industry as a monolithic "Big Taxi," a la Big Oil or Big Tobacco, tapping into the idea that the powers-that-be in the industry aren't individual drivers but taxi fleet owners and operators.
Rhetoric is central focus on the other side, too. There exists a "Who's Driving You?" campaign, backed by the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association. One of that side's core tactics is to reject the idea that "ride-sharing" is what Uber, Lyft and others are up to. Instead, they are, to borrow their phrase, simply "unregulated taxi services."
Who's-called-what is central here because you'll notice in perusing the "Taxi Facts" Web site that it's light on, well, facts. There are themes: taxi monopolies do a disservice to riders, cabs can be unsafe, the existing industry takes advantage of drivers. But the evidence cited consists of press clippings. Despite all the tremendous virtues of the media, aren't necessarily that convincing.
But they're substituting that has been nearly absent from the on-going pay-for-rides debate: data. What sort of data? How much drivers are making under the various models. The value of the taxi medallion in cities in which they exist. How often riders are taken on excessively-long rides. Who's serving which parts of what neighborhoods.
But that data has been clung to tightly by both "Big Taxi" and "Big Rideshare." There's grumbling among public advocates about that fact, and the push will likely soon come for more transparency about how both Uber and taxi incumbents operate. Until then, we get these peeks inside what amounts to the opposing industries' campaign playbooks.