Alaska will get ride-sharing - by app or by bootleg - Must Read Alaska
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Saturday, June 12, 2021
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Alaska will get ride-sharing — by app or by bootleg

Jeremy Price of Americans for Prosperity is surrounded, left to right, by Lloyd Bradley, Ryan McKee, Samuel A. Moore, Megan Alvanna Stimpfle, and Erica Simpson Qureshi at the Alaska State Capitol. They were there to promote ride-sharing legislation.

Senate Bill 14 could really be titled “Adulting Alaskans vs. their Oldie Government.”

It’s lead, follow, or get out of the way with the Millennials who want things to work better and smarter.

In a world where the ride-sharing platforms of Uber, Lyft, and Fasten are available in 49 states, Alaska local governments seem to be fighting Alaskans who simply want to hail a ride from something other than a cab.

Fighting against ride-sharing is fighting on the wrong side of history. It is fighting against economic freedom in favor of an entrenched special interest.

Frustrated riders who can’t get cabs in Alaska, but who have used ride sharing systems elsewhere, are gerry-rigging their way around the anti-free-market government. If not Uber or Lyft, then how about Facebook direct? Let’s try it:

This week in Anchorage, a morning ride to the Ted Stevens International Airport was bartered via Facebook for a bottle of Pinot Grigio. Wine was, for the day, the coin of the ride-sharing realm. For less than $20, this rider hacked a solution to not being able to use Uber in Anchorage, which works like a charm in more than 300 cities over six continents.

The House version — HB 132 — of the ride-sharing legislation is sponsored by Rep. Adam Wool, a Fairbanks Democrat who owns a bar and realizes that people need rides, and ride sharing promotes safety.

His legislation will be the subject of a public hearing in the House Labor and Commerce Committee this Friday. That committee is chaired by his fellow Democrat Sam Kito, who routinely carries water for unions, has been instrumental in the Democratic caucus, and who has not signaled his intentions on HB 132.

Last year, a similar bill died in House Labor and Commerce, killed off by Chairman Kurt Olson, a Kenai Republican.

This year, supporters such as Jeremy Price, Alaska Director for Americans for Prosperity, have high hopes for success.

Price uses Uber on his frequent trips to Washington, D.C., and he was in Juneau last week with a handful of ride-share enthusiasts, including 30-something Sam Moore, who is legally blind and has been pushing for ride sharing services that would make Anchorage quality of life better for him and others who don’t drive or who don’t want to own their own cars.

Viewers may be able to watch the hearing on 360.north.org. They’ll have a chance to comment during the 3:15 pm public testimony period on Friday by heading to their local Legislative Information Office.

Uber recently celebrated its millionth driver. Only a handful of riders and drivers were Alaskans during the brief and poignant time in 2015 when Uber operated in Anchorage before the municipality shut it down.

But it’s a disruptive technology, like vaping, Bitcoin, Airbnb, and car-sharing platforms such as ZipCar.  These innovations are nearly unstoppable — they will not be going quietly into the good night. Luddite governments in Anchorage and Juneau may be able to stall and even manage disruptive technologies, but they’ll not thwart them.

On a side note, the author’s Pinot Grigio-bartered rideshare program just celebrated its first successful ride in Anchorage. With any luck, a credit-card, app-transacted, ride-sharing platform — like Uber — will make the wine-for-ride program  a fleeting fancy of 2017.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

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