Across the country, city halls are struggling to find the right regulatory approach for new transportation modes — most recently dockless bikes and electric scooters. Policymakers will benefit from lessons learned in the Uber/Lyft rideshare wars. Those fights were not about improving transit but rather about managing competition between taxis and rideshares. While the components of the regulatory approach of the future remain elusive, one thing is clear: producing the best possible regulatory regime requires that cities prioritize the right goals.
Currently, technology moves faster than regulators. New transportation modes attract a set of advocates who want to enjoy new ways of getting around with the lowest possible fees. Those opposing widespread adoption of new mobility options — whether scooters or rideshares — represent a diverse set of interests, from land owners to entrenched competitors. The government response is complex because it involves a thicket of policy goals related to mobility, livability, economic development, safety, climate and equity, all in the context of limited public space.