Uber & Food Trucks: How the Internet Stokes the Flame of Once Little-Known Causes


"Grassroots" is a term that first came into usage in the United States in the early part of the 20th century as a means of explaining that political candidates were going back to the root of a problem, starting from scratch. It no doubt had broad appeal with the large percentage of the country that lived and worked outside the cities.

The Internet has been a boon to grassroots causes, aiding in everything from fundraising to petitions to event planning. No candidate or initiative goes without a website, a social media presence and an e-mail campaign.

But because the demographics of the Internet are still skewed largely toward affluent, college-educated people under 50 who live in urban areas, it can lead to the popularization of ideas not widely considered until now and rarely of great concern to those who don't fit that demographic. That can deliver interesting and sometimes unintended results. On one hand, it might shine a light on oppression and even hasten the fall of a political regime as it did in Syria. On the other, it allows the spread of anti-government paranoia from 911 Truthers, which can further confuse an already confused and frustrated electorate. In essence, the web can be an unexpected hero or an asylum for the Boogie Man.

In the case of Uber or food trucks in Houston, there are questions of business regulations, safety and the like that must be answered. But more important, we as a city have to ask if these causes deserve the precious time required for our city officials to debate them. That isn't for me to decide. But when people online overwhelmingly supported saving the Astrodome yet the ballot initiative was soundly rejected, it gave me pause.

After all, I love a good food truck, but there's a reason why chain restaurants are so successful. And I think Uber and Lyft are great ideas, but my guess is that the majority of people who call cabs will still call them instead. Maybe one day there will be a food truck on every block serving up authentic Thai street food and Uber will dominate the world of car services. But for now, people still seem to prefer Applebee's and Yellow Cab and I doubt tweets and Facebook messages will do much to change that.


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3 comments
jkclaypool
jkclaypool

If I was on the outside looking in, my view would echo the writers, and probably the bulk of the readers.However, comparing the Uber campaign to the Food Truck campaign is an apple to oranges task.If the food trucks win their battle, the public would expect them to follow ordinances (cleanliness, etc..) in place to protect the public safety, and I am sure they would.If Uber is allowed in Houston, they want to defy these ordinances, and in fact try to change them.

Just ask that to the family of Sophia Liu, a six year old girl who was killed by an Uber Driver on New Year’s eve. They are currently in court because Uber’s insurance policy (that they have yet to produce for the city of Houston) would not cover the accident. And, as the driver was working for Uber at the time it also voided his personal insurance.

Also, there have been accusations (though no prosecutions that I can see) of issues between Uber drivers (who do not necessarily have a thorough criminal background check) and its passengers.

Unlike the Food Truck against Restaurant debate, which is professional against professional.The Vehicle-for-Hire against Uber debate is professional against guerrilla marketer.And I am worried that in this case the guerilla marketer will win.

johnatrisk
johnatrisk

I've never had any inconvenience waiting for a cab here...the yellow cab app HailACab is one click ordering with GPS locating for you and the driver so you can watch the cab come pick you up. Autopay via credit card if you used up all your cash at the bar. My maximum wait time over about 200 cab rides (I go out a lot...) is about 10 minutes, and that was during White Linen Night. And guess what? It didn't cost triple because it was busy. I get that it's cool and all, but until you can specify a van, a wheelchair accessible transport, or pay $6 for 4 people to ride across downtown...I don't see the value. Uber seems more for people who just want to ride with other people like them. And in a city as spread out as houston, good luck getting an Uber ride quickly. If you think that Yellow is slow to get you, keep in mind they have like a 1000 cabs on the road at any one time. Which means there will limited Uber supply on busy nights: welcome to triple fares!


Now getting cabs in New Orleans, that's a different proposition. Unless you know the special numbers, you're never getting nowhere. That's where Uber should go.

johnnyboy729
johnnyboy729

I've recently lived in Denver and Dallas, and have found Uber and Lyft to be wildly popular and successful in both cities.  Primarily, as a means of transportation when drinking.   Pickups take about 5 minutes, rather than waiting 30+ minutes for a cab that often doesn't arrive, or takes 30 minutes more than the quoted time.  


A lot of people choose to drive due to the inconvenience of cabs here.  Any method we can instate to alleviate drinking and driving is a positive.


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