What’s next: the head of a hotel association opening an Airbnb? In a moment of delicious irony, a top official at New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission is leaving his post to take a job as Uber’s first head of community engagement.
As the New York Times reports, Ashwini Chhabra worked for an agency that recentlyfought to keep Uber — and other services that let passengers hail rides with their smartphones — out of the city. Now, the rapprochement is complete:
“At first, they were adversaries — the taxi agency leery of a smartphone app that could upend decades of street-hailing history and the business that responded by hitting the tech-friendly Bloomberg administration where it hurt […] But more than 18 months later, with the technology now approved by city officials and accepted by riders, it seems the relationship has been consummated in earnest.”
Chhabra also suggested that some of his earlier qualms may have been off-the-mark, noting, “Regulators often move slower than entrepreneurs.”
The Times didn’t say what specifically Chhabra will be doing as Uber’s first “head of policy development and community engagement,” but it’s a safe bet he will keep busy at a company that regularly provokes both regulators and its own customers: Uber drew flak for its surge-pricing during Hurricane Sandy and, last Christmas Eve, its abrasive CEO took to Twitter to taunt those who objected to it raising fares on a big travel day.
Despite the brouhahas, Uber and other such services have become entrenched and ever more popular in cities around the world. In New York City, which has complicated limits on where and how customers can hail a cab, the services have provided a useful addition to the city’s transportation network.