Swamplot reports (HT: blogHouston) that city council has approved new regulations for jitneys. The new regulations require all fixed-route services to have a capacity of 9 to 15 passengers.
I am sure that the wonderful folks on city council can provide us with an explanation as to why they picked this range. But I don't care to spend the time to find it, because frankly, I am just as sure that it is absurd and will ultimately come down to some type of claim that that number serves the "public interest."
If there is a legitimate economic reason for jitneys to have a capacity of 9 to 15 passengers, the operators of those services are perfectly capable of making that determination and acting accordingly. However, if there isn't, and the actual facts indicate that, they such a restriction is arbitrary.
Consider Rev Eco-Shuttle, which operates 2 5-passenger vehicles downtown. Under the regulation Rev will be allowed to continue operations, but will be prohibited from expanding. No matter what reason council has concocted for his passenger limit, it has contradicted itself in granting an exception. Either the passenger limit has a valid justification or it doesn't. When an exception is made to any law the message is quite clear: There is no valid justification for that law.
Council's interest in jitneys has been sparked by an increase in such services in areas such as downtown, Midtown, and Washington Avenue. Recognizing an opportunity, at least 2 companies have begun offering jitney services in these areas. These companies have acted on their own judgment in regard to offering the service and the size/ type of vehicle they use. And consumers have similarly acted on their own judgment--both services seem to be very popular.
Allowing individuals to make such voluntary choices does not sit well with those who want to control and dictate how we live our lives. And they will go to absurd lengths to impose their values upon others. The new regulations literally make it illegal for a business to operate with a 5-passenger vehicle. Which means, you would be a criminal if you used your vehicle as a jitney.
Anyone who chooses to operate a jitney has a moral right to do so. City council has no business dictating who may or may not operate a jitney or the type of vehicle they must use.
The jitney ordinance continues a trend going back decades. Council has increasingly used government coercion to dictate what you may or may not do. From landscaping to signs, from taco trucks to land-use, council has enacted ordinance after ordinance that prohibits a growing number of voluntary and consensual activities of Houstonians. Virtually nothing is off limits to the power lusting "leaders" of our city, and as long as Houstonians accept these restriction, controls, and mandates, city government will continue to assume more control over our lives.