Ash Paper Proposes New Model for Rideshare Regulation in Cities

January 17, 2019
City Street

Cambridge, MA – The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation today published a report by Stephen Goldsmith, the Daniel Paul Professor of the Practice of Government at Harvard Kennedy School, on reforming ridesharing regulations in urban areas. In his paper, Reforming Mobility Management: Rethinking the Regulatory Framework, Goldsmith, who also serves as the Director of the Innovations in American Government Program at the Ash Center, calls on cities to adopt a “light touch” regulatory regime for ridesharing that employs curbside pricing to create a market-based usage model to wring maximum efficiency from congested urban roadways and curbsides.

With ridesharing services proliferating in cities across the country, Goldsmith argues that cities need to radically rethink their regulatory approaches to transportation network providers. “Cities,” writes Goldsmith, “must embrace a new role of planner, coordinator, and facilitator of a distributed system of integrated providers.” By acknowledging that ridesharing services can greatly increase access to and availability of urban mobility options, cities should integrate ridesharing into a more unified transportation system, Goldsmith lays out in his paper. In short, he says, cities “must take an active role in the creation of rules to consistently manage the new market.”

Goldsmith also cautions cities not to replicate the failures of top-down regulatory mechanisms like taxi medallions, but should “focus on creating systems that primarily use transparent reputational and locational information and fees to guide company and traveler behavior.” Specifically, Goldsmith urges cities to avoid vehicle caps and burdensome license requirements. Instead, he argues that charging for curbside usage, a more flexible regulatory model, will encourage more efficient use of road space. “By charging for time stopped at the curb, the system incentivizes quick turnover and efficient pickups to avoid the negative effects of vehicles lingering at curbside,” Goldsmith writes.

About the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence in governance and strengthens democratic institutions worldwide. Through its research, education, international programs, and government innovations awards, the Center fosters creative and effective government problem solving and serves as a catalyst for addressing many of the most pressing needs of the world’s citizens. For more information, visit

Contact Information:

Daniel Harsha
Associate Director for Communications
Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
Harvard Kennedy School

Sarah Grucza
Communications Specialist
Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
Harvard Kennedy School