Cars in Montgomery, AL, are the city's default mode of transportation.

It's a process that's overseen by the municipal car for hire program, which lists ten (10!) short-term car hirers to pick up and drop off drivers within the city limits.

Why don't the car hirers that work in the city employ their own drivers? There are at least fifty distinct occupations that are listed to drive for hire. But although this number might seem impressive, it actually has a whopping 90% of workers listed to carry out their duties behind the wheel that have a single line on their job description that says they've been selected because of their ability to drive a car.

This is a ridiculous discrepancy, and it's most obvious during any traffic tie-ups, low-speed urban affairs, or even more traditional collections of cars moving slowly through a residential street. Instead of using a friendly, professional face to collect drivers, these vehicles are selected so perfectly that if you were to spot one parked in a private driveway you'd almost expect it to be employed by that particular resident.

By comparison, the condition of our roads is far better, and we seem to be better off for it. If you'd like to hire a car, there are plenty of companies that employ people that are skilled enough to operate on the road.

Twenty-five states in the United States have car hire programs that allow for the hire of drivers. By contrast, in Alabama there is just one company, and they require that candidates appear to have actually driven before they can be awarded the position of car hireer.

It's hard to see how this system affects working people or lowers rents. It's worse than simply allowing transport contractors to break the rules. They're operating within the realms of antitrust; operating together under one set of rules, and it's very obvious where one market share is going to fall.

It's no secret that Montgomery is an incredibly urbanized city, with high rents and cramped quarters for all who live within the city. Over the past decade it's been replaced by new residents. Of the 10 car hirers that we managed to track down for our story, five of those vehicles were still being used for the most basic service, ferrying passengers around. In other words, ninety percent of drivers are only employed because of the fact that they're sitting shotgun.

It seems entirely logical that such a system in a congested city could never be efficient or efficiently run. On the other hand, cars in Montgomery have significant advantages over any other mode of transport; they're cheaper, have better fuel mileage, and they're around the corner from people. It's difficult to see how this would work to any other point of urban life.

There is a solution, of course. Car hire companies could charge as much as is necessary for each mile they drive, per passenger. Many could see huge sums of money they couldn't otherwise make. The only problem is that for the hypothetical company that was able to set this price, it would mean that the black market for cars would truly return to its former size, as it no longer takes a risk in hiring private citizens. You have to ask: is this really how we want to spend the energy and effort of our civic institutions?

Source: Montgomery Advertiser