Can Birmingham survive without Uber?

UberI’ve never seen anything like this Uber thing.

People regularly challenge me to write about specific topics relating to Birmingham, but the interest in Uber is beyond insane.

I’ve been bombarded by e-mails from folks supporting Uber and describing Birmingham City Councilor Kim Rafferty as the Evil Witch of the West.

I believe many folks have determined the Uber decision will define the future of Birmingham.

Under great pressure, I write about Uber knowing that many of you may be unhappy with my perspective.

Those of you who read ComebackTown regularly know our objective is to create a conversation about a better Birmingham with an emphasis on improved government for our region.

The Uber controversy is a great example of what happens when a small portion of our metropolitan area (the City of Birmingham) makes a decision for our whole region.  (The City of Birmingham represents 19% of the population of metropolitan Birmingham)

The majority of people who urged me to support Uber don’t live in the City of Birmingham.  Why should they be upset no Birmingham City Councilor’s paying attention to them?

Many Birmingham citizens live below the poverty line and may be struggling to pay bills and buy food.  Uber is not a critical issue for them.  These folks are probably more concerned about adequate public transportation.

Those of us who live in the suburbs have determined we are okay with the City of Birmingham making decisions for us.  Suburbanites complain about Birmingham, but they have chosen to opt out.  When my family moved to Vestavia Hills we were fully aware we would have no vote in Birmingham.

I have no plans to move into Birmingham and I’m not recommending anyone else move either.  If Vestavia Hills were to consolidate into Birmingham my neighbors and I would have a vote and a voice.

Everyone gets a seat at the table in Nashville, Charlotte, Jacksonville and other cities with consolidated governments. We have chosen to extricate ourselves from Birmingham and then are surprised when we are powerless.

Birmingham may never be a modern city without Uber, but Birmingham will never be a modern city without basic public transportation. We may want a dome; we may want the Democratic National Convention. Having both ride sharing and a highly functional bus system would be expected.

The City of Birmingham has the authority to make decisions it feels are in the best interest of its citizens–even if they don’t align with its wealthier suburbs. Isn’t that what you would expect?

If we are unhappy being powerless we can change our government structure or understand the consequences. We can’t have it both ways.

Editor’s note:  No one should feel sorry for Uber.  Uber just raised $1.2 billion–based on an evaluation of $17 billion. Uber will eventually find a way to do business in Birmingham.

Let’s turn Birmingham around.  Click here to sign up for our newsletter.  There’s power in numbers. (Opt out at any time)

David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, a co-founder of Buzz12 Advertising Agency and co-CEO of AmSher Collection Agency.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).


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6 thoughts on “Can Birmingham survive without Uber?”

  1. Uber is a great example of why the surrounding metro areas do not want to suborn their governments to the City of Birmingham.  Why put oneself, one’s schools, and one’s property under a governing authority that shows itself time and time again to be corrupt, racists and backwards?

    If you’re looking for clues . . . this is a big one.

  2. *what does the assumption that most folks in Bham are more concerned with having adequate public transportation have to do with whether Uber comes to town or not? All cities that I have visited that have Über also have excellent public transportation. What’s up with Bham anyway? Come on, get real. Are the decisions made by the City Council a result of long held expectations of ” what’s in it for me ” mentality ? Why would I want to live in Birmingham with this kind of representation?

    1. Bill, the whole point of the blog is that if we had a consolidated county/city government then everyone in Jefferson County would have representation. The current Birmingham City and county governments would be replaced to reflect our new region.

  3. *So can Vestavia Hills invite Urber to come set up shop here? I loved using them in Santa Monica! Maybe even they would join the VH Chamber. I can’t seem to get a taxi company to join! At least Over the Mountain Sedan is a member, but they are not a “ride share” provider. 

    1. Lisa, my guess is that Vestavia Hills is not a large enough area for Uber. There would be a lot of time, money, and resources needed to begin operations. As I said in my blog, I strongly feel Uber and other car sharing services will eventually be a included in Birmingham.

  4. *Uber is a viable option, and when compared to other alternatives, an easy way to help move this city (and surrounding (areas) forward. It’s not a zero sum game. We need easy access to public transport, but does that mean other options are scuttled until then?  That doesn’t make sense to me. 

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