Uber won a major victory in Washington, DC this week, when the City Council passed an amendment that effectively legalizes the company's car-booking app. The San Francisco-based startup makes an app that allows users to hire private sedans from their smartphones. The DC City Council had been deliberating over legislation that would have mandated that these sedans charge no less than five times the minimum cost of a taxi, but that version of the amendment dissipated on Tuesday, due in large part to a groundswell of consumer backlash. Instead, the Council decided to allow Uber to operate without regulation until the end of the year, when the legislation will be reconsidered.
On Monday, Uber co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick published a letter calling for users to sign a petition against the price-fixing amendment, authored by Councilmember Mary Cheh. Kalanick also implored users to directly e-mail their Councilmembers in protest of the bill, arguing that Cheh's legislation was designed to "protect a taxi industry that has significant experience in influencing local politicians." Kalanick's exhortations apparently paid off; Councilmember Jack Evans reportedly received some 5,000 e-mails in response to the proposal.
The Council's decision comes at a particularly auspicious time for Uber, which earlier this month announced Uber X — a new service that offers luxury vehicles at lower fares. The company has already launched similarly low-cost services in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco, and has been looking to expand into DC, as well. That prospect looks a little brighter today, after a decision that Kalanick heralded as a victory against special interests. "We brought real thunder in 18 hours," Kalanick told the New York Times. "We gave a lot of constituents a voice, people who would never have been heard before."