Anyone who celebrated Independence Day in Downtown Pittsburgh this year and didn’t drive received a painful lesson in how monopolies hurt consumers.
Between festivals, fireworks and a baseball game, the city was expecting hundreds of thousands of people to celebrate the Fourth of July this year, and yet the Port Authority and cab providers were still woefully unprepared for the crowds’ transit needs, to the extreme detriment of citizens and our city alike.
For hours, I saw bus stops crowded with hundreds of people, filled buses passing right by crowded stops and physical violence erupting all over Downtown as passengers fought for a spot on the next vehicle. Many worried that service would stop before they got home.
Thanks to the Public Utility Commission, Lyft and Uber were crippled, while Yellow Cab wouldn’t even pick up the phone (I tried a lot). Yellow Cab had an opportunity to show that Pittsburgh doesn’t need Lyft and Uber but instead proved exactly the opposite.
This isn’t just inconvenient; it hurts Pittsburgh. It hurts economically, as people won’t celebrate Downtown anymore. It hurts public safety (even beyond the fighting), as those who made responsible choices may risk driving drunk next time instead. And it hurts our image, as many visitors who came to celebrate were undoubtedly horrified by long waits, the fear of being stranded and physical violence. I won’t blame them for never returning.
Other cities provide expanded public transit capacity on busy nights and real competition for cabs. Last weekend, Pittsburgh deserved better.