City Council will consider new regulations for Uber, Lyft

Uber app (KXAN Photo)
Uber app (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Fearing regulation changes to transportation networking companies (TNCs) in Austin, more than 24,000 Austinites have signed a petition through Uber, opposing new proposals.

On Wednesday, the city of Austin’s Mobility Committee approved new rules and regulations they want to put in place for TNCs like Uber and Lyft. In two 3-1 votes, the committee approved imposing an annual fee for ride sharing services and fingerprinting drivers. Council Member Don Zimmerman voted against the new regulations.

Amend City Code to address public safety:

The City Manager is directed to initiate an amendment to City code Chapter 13-2, to address public safety as it relates to Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), that includes the following provisions, and to bring back to the Mobility Committee for recommendation to Council no later than November 16, 2015:

· Align the background check process for TNC drivers with the process for taxis so that the check is conducted nationwide for both types of drivers. Amend the taxi ordinance if necessary to allow for a nationwide process.

· Align the driver eligibility standards for TNCs with that for taxis so that a history of certain offenses is treated the same with regard to eligibility to drive.

· Add a fingerprinting requirement for TNC drivers that collect the same fingerprint information for TNCs as is collected for taxis and other ground transportation drivers.

· Authorize the Austin Transportation Department to contract with a third party to manage the fingerprinting and background check process for ground transportation processes so that the process is completed quickly and does not create barriers for onboarding drivers.

Amend City Code to address fee equity and cost of service:

The City Manager is directed to initiate an amendment to City code Chapter 13-2 to establish a fee for Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) with the following provisions and to bring back to the Mobility Committee for recommendation to Council no later than November 16, 2015:

Each TNC operating in the City of Austin shall pay an annual fee that is the lesser of the following:

(1) The total of the permit fee paid by taxicab companies times the number of persons driving for the TNC; or

(2) Two (2) percent of the TNC’s annual local gross revenues.

In the alternative, TNCs with a total number of drivers that is less than the number of taxicab permits for the smallest taxicab company may elect to pay a fee according to a graduated per driver fee schedule determined by the Transportation Department that is less than the permit fee paid by taxicab companies.

Uber, which launched in Austin in June 2014, believes the proposed regulations are too restrictive.

“When I look at MULTIPLE other industries that require it (fingerprinting) and probably hundreds of thousands of people in the state of Texas that have to get fingerprinted in other industries, it’s just – I’m trying to understand why your industry should be the exception,” District 10 Council Member Sheri Gallo said.

Mobility Committee Chair, Ann Kitchen, explained that currently, every other public mode of transportation in Austin is required to pay set fees. Additionally, all public drivers are subjected to fingerprinting.

Currently, Lyft does not operate where fingerprinting is required. The General Manager for Austin’s Uber Marco McCottry agrees there are other ways to complete background checks.

“It’s an additional friction point that’s not necessarily adding any additional safety benefit,” McCottry said.

McCottry: “We’re no longer operating in San Antonio precisely for similar frameworks that were put forward.”

KXAN’s Kylie McGivern: “So this is a very real possibility that Uber could not continue to operate in Austin, depending how this goes?”

McCottry: “This model is very challenging for us and we haven’t accepted these provisions in any other city…since Houston.”

According to Uber’s newly released Austin Mobility Study, there have been more than 2.5 million rides since June 2014. The average wait time for an Uber ride is three minutes.

The regulations now go to the Austin City Council for review.

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