Pittsburgh is Getting Tired of Uber’s Corporate Nonsense
Pittsburgh boasts moreÂ bridgesÂ than any other city its size andÂ Uber seems intent on burning every single one. After the ride-hailing company offered to test its autonomous platform in the city, Pittsburgh welcomed it with open arms. Now it’s starting to seem like it got a raw deal. Uber has become like the city’s drug-addicted teenÂ â€” permitted to stay, despite very disappointing behavior and repeated broken promises. You get the sense its only one big screw-up away from beingÂ thrown out on its ass.
It hasn’t even been a full year andÂ residents and officials are already claiming Uber has already let the city down. You have to place some of the blame on Pittsburgh for enabling Uber’s uncouth behavior, but it didn’t force it to abandon corporate citizenship. In the last nine months, Uber has withdrawn its promised support of Pittsburgh’s bid for a $50 million federal transportation grant and completely failled at creating jobs it promised struggling communities. It has also started charging fares for its driverless taxis, something the city initially assumed would be free in exchange for the company having the privilege of testing there.Â
The New York Times suggests many residents areÂ upset with Bill Peduto, the mayor of Pittsburgh, for not solidifying these deals in writing.Â Pedutoâ€™s challengers in the 2017 mayoral race have criticized his relationship with the firm as a campaign tactic, though it didn’t prevent him from winning the Democratic primary.
â€œThis was an opportunity missed,â€ said city controller Michael Lamb, who has requested Uber share the traffic data obtained by its autonomous vehicles.
Linda Bailey, the executive director of the National Association of City Transportation Officials, said Pittsburgh’s relationship with Uber should be a cautionary tale to other cities.Â â€œ[Uber] is a business, and they want to make money,â€ she said. â€œWith Pittsburgh, we learned we need to present the cityâ€™s needs upfront.â€
The ride-sharing company hasÂ stated it wants to continue a working relationship with the cityÂ but had yet to see a draft of proposed commitments the city is seeking. As for the traffic informationÂ requests made byÂ Lamb, Uber has agreed to provide the some of the data acquired through testing but no more than it would give any other city. Pittsburgh officials have claimed that is unacceptable, given the level of access they’ve given the company.
Pittsburghers for Public Transit, a group representing bus drivers and riders, organized a social media campaign and public protestÂ against the companyâ€™s decision to continue airport service afterÂ taxi drivers had halted rides to protest the Trump administrationâ€™s travel ban.
Molly Nichols, executive director of the group, claimedÂ Uber had called to ask her to cancel the protests â€” a request she refused. â€œThe warning signs about Uberâ€™s questionable business practices were all over the place, and the mayor should have recognized that and worked harder to create a partnership that was more equitable,â€ Nichols said.
Plenty of direct action taken against Uber has been politically motivated. CEO Travis Kalanick’s brief stint as a member of President Trump’s business advisory council seemed to be a particularly sore spot for Democrats. Criticisms against his appointment were so severe that he left the council after only a few weeks.
However, there are plenty of non-partisan issues for locals to gripe about, too. While Uber has says it has created 675 jobs in the greater Pittsburgh area and aided local organizations, many say it hasn’t lived up to its end of the perceived bargain. Even the mayor has changed his tune.Â â€œWhen it came to what Uber and what Travis Kalanick wanted, Pittsburgh delivered,â€ Mr. Peduto said. â€œBut when it came to our vision of how this industry could enhance people, planet and place, that message fell on deaf ears.â€
TheÂ Times indicated that the mayor had exchanged frequent texts withÂ Kalanick in 2015. However, things changed in 2016 when the company withdrew its financial support for a proposal to acquire Department of Transportation grants aimed at improving the city’s transit infrastructure. Later,Â Peduto was billed after taking a ride in an autonomous Uber vehicle â€” whichÂ Kalanick had assured him would be free as a public service to the city.
[Image: Uber Technologies]
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May 22, 2017 at 10:15AM
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