Cities have responded to new transportation providers like Uber and Lyft in wildly differing ways, with open arms, or cease-and-desist letters, preemptive bans or legal blessings. If you're someone who travels a lot (or a lobbyist charged with navigating all these places), it's a little hard to keep track of who's in favor of these companies and who's not.
So here is a scorecard, courtesy of the free-market think tank R Street, which has graded the 50 largest cities in the country on how how friendly and open their transportation markets are to newcomers like Uber and Lyft, as well as their traditional competitors, taxis and limos.
By R Street's counting, Washington, D.C., has the freest transportation market in the country. The city just passed regulation legalizing "transportation network companies" that allow people with their private cars to operate like quasi-cab drivers. And Washington has long been a wide-open market for traditional cabs, too. The city doesn't cap the number of cabs that can serve the city, nor does it require drivers to purchase pricey medallions to operate them. For these reasons, Washington gets an A from R Street — for both its friendliness to Uber and its entire relatively open transportation market.
Scroll down in the box below for the rest of the grades (they're shaded by letter, A to F).
Ranking regulatory environments by how open they are to competition is a subjective exercise. One person's over-regulation is another person's consumer protection. So take these grades as what they are: an assessment by folks who think that cities should let the free market do more to provide you transportation.
That said, here's how R Street calculated the scores: It looked at how cities regulate each ground transportation sector in turn, from TNCs to taxis to limos, and then bundled those results into one weighted score. Bonus points went to cities that have passed regulation explicitly allowing companies like Uber to operate (19 of the 50 have). Big deductions went to the places that have issued cease-and-desist letters instead (13 of 50). Cities were also dinged for restricting where and how TNCs can operate, by banning them from airports, for example.
With traditional taxis, cities were penalized for limiting the supply of cabs that can operate in a city, and for charging steep licensing fees for them, as New York does. All 50 cities have some kind of elaborate rules that R Street says "effectively eliminate price competition, suppress supply and degrade service levels." By which they mean just about every city regulates the prices cabs can charge, and the condition of the vehicles themselves.
Washington got an A for being a friendly market to both cabs and Uber cars — just about anyone in the District can apply to operate a cab, or can now drive their own car like one. Chicago got a C because, while it legalized TNCs this summer, its taxi market is strictly regulated and tightly capped. The city that's the worst of both worlds, in R Street's view: Las Vegas, where it's hard to break into the taxi market, and where Uber, under just the last few weeks, had been conspicuously absent.