Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Electric Lazyland : Electric Cars in Houston and a response by Rick Ehrlich of Houston Electric Car

posted by Free Press Houston @ 11:18 AM

by Alex Wukman

Erik Ibarra walks into Coffee Groundz on a Saturday morning in his customary black polo embroidered with the Rev Houston logo and a ball cap. Ibarra and his brother, Justin Jones, started Rev Houston in April 2008--the same month that Ibarra and his brother Sean Ibarra accepted a settlement from Harris County.
In 2004 the brothers sued the county and the sheriff’s department, stating that their civil rights were violated when sheriff’s deputies stormed their home, arrested them and seized film after they photographed a deputy during a drug raid at a neighbor’s home. The suit was settled for $1.7 million.
Ibarra says that he was attending a sports event when he saw electric shuttles (they look like stretch golf carts) and became inspired, so he and Jones decided to start a company transporting people through downtown and midtown for tips. They went before Mayor Bill White and City Council to explain what they were doing.
“The mayor said ‘We look forward to permitting you. We think that plug in electric cars are the wave of the future,’” says Ibarra.
Six weeks after Rev Houston started, though, they received a ticket for operating a taxi without a license. Ibarra feels that the city has cowed to pressure from the taxi companies.
“Taxi companies feel that that we are such a threat that we have to be ticketed,” says Ibarra as he takes a sip from his coffee, “but the last thing we wanted to do when we started this company was compete with cabs.”
Raymond Turner, president of Yellow Cab Houston, states that he and his company have not put undue pressure on the city to ticket Ibarra.
“All we’ve done is ask the city to enforce existing ordinance, these vehicles are clearly vehicles for hire,” says Turner. Since Ibarra is running a company that hires out vehicles, he should be held to the same standard as any other taxi company. “The ordinance requires things like a sign on the top, a meter and doors,” says Turner.
None of Ibarra’s electric cars have signs marking them as taxis; nor do they have meters, or even doors. Ibarra feels that they don’t need meters because they don’t charge their riders a fare--they only accept tips. Not everybody agrees with him, though. Tina Paez, the city’s Deputy Director of Administration and Regulatory Affairs told the Houston Chronicle that since Rev Houston’s drivers accept tips, they are taxis and fall under the taxi ordinance.
The ordinance also requires that taxi cabs have fire extinguishers, something Ibarra finds ridiculous.
“We don’t even have any flammable fuel onboard,” says Ibarra.
Turner isn’t concerned with the fact that Ibarra’s drivers use electric cars, he just wants them to follow the rules.
“We’re not out trying to make life difficult for people, [but] the Rev Houston vehicles look like taxi cabs to us and to the city,” says Turner. Since the city has decided to regulate the taxi cab industry they need to regulate every taxi vehicle—electric or not. To Turner, the issue isn’t about the city favoring big businesses over small or not encouraging green vehicles; it’s about being equal under the law. “If the city is going to take this position that they are going to regulate this industry they have to regulate the entire industry.”
Ibarra counters that being equal under the law isn’t possible when the system is set against you. Ibarra stated that getting a taxi permit in Houston is difficult, because the permit price isn’t sent by the city, it is set by the cab companies. The barriers to entry are too high to start a cab company,. Turner is unconvinced.



At September 9, 2009 at 4:39 PM , Blogger The Tillis said...

Pressuring small businesses like these is the antithesis of free market capitalism and innovative thinking. I LOVE these guys! For people who live in Midtown they are a life saver and their radius doesnt even come close to competing with any cab company. When I was on crutches after surgery, they were more accomodating in terms of picking me up and way easier to get in and out of the vehicle. After reading this, I will no longer be using Yellow Cab.

At February 22, 2010 at 1:24 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have the same problem in Austin. There's an electric taxi over here too and you wouldn't believe the grief the city is giving them!! Yellowcab is behind it all!

At November 15, 2013 at 12:44 PM , Blogger burhan ibrahim said...

Electric cars is a better option in these days.

Affordable used cars in houston


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