BOGOTA — Some residents of the Colombian capital are indignant at recent police checks on white cars thought to be carrying passengers through Uber, an Internet application that links users with private drivers.
Passengers using Uber can pay by credit or debit card beforehand and can be picked up anywhere. Cars are clean and the drivers cautious, no small feat in a city where a taxi driver might mug you or worse.
Whether the service is illegal is open to interpretation. A 2001 decree allows such transportation by companies legally constituted to carry specified types of passengers. Literally read in the current debate, it would allow Uber cars to carry not just anyone, but “specific” groups such as guests of a particular hotel chain or children who attend a particular school. At least that’s how the city Transport Secretariat, which ordered the checks, sees it.
It is a rigorous attitude that is unfortunately not applied to other, truly bothersome situations: taxis spurning passengers during rush hour, drivers of illegal taxis mugging passengers, or the informal taxis prowling around university premises in central and northern Bogotá that crowd five passengers into a small car for a flat fare.
A spokesman for taxi company Taxis Libres says the problem is that Uber drivers fix fares as they please, and are neither qualified professionally or regulated by authorities. Frankly, he could be talking about one of his own drivers.
The debate on the legalities and effects of the application is far from over. For now, the Transport Ministry has the last word.