Commentary: Rideshare Should Get On Board with Existing Rules

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Taxi file photo. Photo by Flickr user Emanuele.

Emanuele / Flickr

Taxi file photo.

In June last year, San Antonio’s City Council convened a task force to craft recommendations on an ordinance that would allow Uber, Lyft and other transportation network companies (TNCs) to operate legally in San Antonio. In December, the Council adopted a set of fair, reasonable and business-friendly regulations, similar to Houston’s, that put public safety first.  The regulations require Uber and Lyft drivers to get an FBI fingerprint check when they’re screened, just like taxi drivers, teachers, electricians, daycare providers and plumbers – people to whom we entrust our lives, our kids’ lives and invite into our homes.  Not too onerous, right?

The regulations also require TNC drivers to get their vehicles inspected and carry adequate insurance so that we avoid in San Antonio what has happened in other cities throughout the U.S.:  a TNC driver is in an accident, their personal insurance won’t cover damages and Uber refuses to pay as well.

But Uber is balking at these requirements in San Antonio, despite the fact that they already comply with very similar regulations in other cities.  Uber is threatening to leave San Antonio if our Council doesn’t water down the ordinance and compromise its public safety standards.  They have purposely made this issue into a litmus test of San Antonio’s business climate, something that smells a bit like blackmail at worst and expensive Washington public relations tactic at best.

But our City Council knows something that would keep anyone up at night and it’s this: Everything’s fine until something goes wrong. Let’s say our City Council caves in to the pressure tactics currently being applied by this $40 billion California company and designed by David Plouffe, one of President Obama’s former political wizards who heads up Uber’s campaign to operate with as little regulation as possible. Let’s say they throw out the insurance requirement or overlook the fingerprint check for drivers. And then, a tragic accident happens, or – God forbid – another driver-on-passenger attack like the ones that have happened with Uber in Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston and Washington, D.C. recently. Where will the blame be assigned for allowing this to happen? The blame will fall squarely on the shoulders of the City Council members currently being squeezed to back down from their strong stand for public safety. Because ultimately, it is they who are accountable for our citizens’ safety, not Uber.

Uber’s motives are clear: the less regulation, the more profit. So let’s put our cards on the table, Uber. You fought a great fight. But we’ve seen this playbook before in cities throughout the U.S. You say you’re going to leave unless standards are weakened for you (like you’re doing in Salt Lake City and the way you did in Houston) but really, you’re just making sure you’ve squeezed every concession possible out of our Council. That is certainly your right. But the Council’s first responsibility – any government’s first responsibility – is ensuring the safety of the people. That’s what the TNC regulations should do.

So come on, Uber. Get on board. In six months, the Council is already set to review the regulations anyway. Follow the same rules teachers, plumbers and taxi drivers do for six months and then make your case. Be a good corporate citizen. San Antonio’s arms are wide open for you and the taxi industry welcomes the competition.

*Featured/top image: Taxi file photo. Photo by Flickr user Emanuele.

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Commentary: ‘Rideshare’ Needs Rules

30 thoughts on “Commentary: Rideshare Should Get On Board with Existing Rules

  1. John,

    I think all San Antonians appreciate your concern for safety, but your statements sometimes seem false and/or misleading – thus the almost universal rejection of your arguments on this and other venues. Primarily, I am concerned that you continue to imply that Uber drivers only carry personal coverage while driving. A simple Google search reveals that implication to be incorrect (

    • Actually John, The current city regulations require coverage during the “gap” period when the application is on but a fair has not been accepted. That period is one in which a driver’s personal insurance does not cover them at all. That is the gap in insurance coverage that our city council has attempted to remedy (notice Uber didn’t care at all). USAA has since announced that they will offer a plan for drivers that actually covers them for the gap period and drivers won’t need to lie about what they do with their car to get it. The Council will adjust the regs accordingly. All the other regulations constitute an “even playing filed” actually they constituted an advantage for the TNCs because TNC drivers have a much smaller license fee and no limit on the number of cars they can operate.

      Lets all get on board for equal treatment under the law and demand that Uber and Lyft respect the same safety standards as all our for-hire car services.

      Since you are clearly wrong about this, I hope you are ready to change your position.

  2. What a joke. Since when do I need city government telling me who I can and can’t ride with! If I want to take the chance of riding with someone that doesn’t meet taxi standards then that is the risk I’m willing to take. Since when is driving with uninsured drivers against the law? Since when do San Antonio drivers carry insurance?

    • So the taxi cartel wants the TNCs to be on equal footing? Ha. So why did the City Council pass an ordinance requiring a far HIGHER level of insurance than is required for the taxi companies. I’ve never had anything close to a bad Uber experience here or in other cities. I’ve got a long list of taxi horror stories in different cities around the U.S. and in Europe.

      The taxi companies have been shielded from competition for so long, they don’t know what else to do other than to run to government for protection. What a racket.

      I tried the “Hail a Cab” app and, after saying it was looking for a cab for about five minutes, it finally gave up and said it couldn’t find a taxi for me. And, I bet if one had actually arrived, the driver would have been a jerk about accepting a credit card.

      The tax cartel needs to get off its ridiculous high horse. You’ve been provided terrible service for so long, that’s what created the opening for Uber and Lyft. You’ve made the bed…

  3. Strong stand for public safety? Why do you consistently fail to take a strong stand for customer service, Mr. Bouloubasis? This is why nobody is buying your argument. Yellow Cab in SA is horrid. Filthy, smelly, rarely shows up when called, and doesn’t like serving locals. You made your bed — now you get to lie in it.

  4. You know what, Mr. Bouloubasis? I’ll even concede your point on driver-on passenger attack. It’s more likely with Uber than with Yellow Cab, if only because the driver actually has to show up in order for the attack to happen.

  5. Have a look at the comments here. Nothing but one person after another, completely misunderstanding the contention, or even the scope and jurisdiction of the regulation. Ignorance, it’s what keeps Uber on the road.


    Apparently the Council is set to vote on new rules that would provide a substantial regulatory advantage to the TNCs, and constitute unequal protection under the law for the for-hire car services in this city.

    Robert Rivard, you have said in the past on this page that you support equal regulation for all for-hire car services. I expect you to stand by your position in favor of equal treatment, and come down in opposition to these rule changes.

  7. That last name did sound familiar. I looked it up right after I read this article. How can a neutral position come from the leader of the opposition?

  8. There is an ancient saying which goes ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating,’ and anyone who has tried it knows: rideshare > taxi

  9. Can you add a few more scare tactics? How about if San Antonio moves into the new century they can continue to grow and prosper?

  10. Our city Council leaders also listen to polls during an election and there’s a reason why Ivy Taylor has hold off on the rules going into effect. There’s no stopping the cab companies from adopting the same driver/passenger rating technology that Uber and Lyft has so they can still be relevant. I’m all for the insurance, but you can leave the FBI background check at the door. To see if a person is a sex criminal is one of the easiest thing you can do.

  11. Well said! I, for one, would not use ride share if they did not have to abide by the regulations set forth. Public safety is top priority!

    • Don’t use ride-share if it’s not the right option for you. Doesn’t mean it’s not working for thousands of San Antonio residents across the city. Our largest public safety concern is the DWI rates in this city, which the Bexar county DA acknowledges will decrease with options such as ride-sharing. Furthermore, it’s not the city council’s responsibility to tell us who we can and cannot accept a ride from. If it doesn’t work for you, don’t use it, period.

  12. This article reads like the same kind of fear mongering that accompanies every form of anti-progress that only serves entrenched interests like Yellow Cab.

    The people of this city are NOT on the hook for making sure your business succeeds if nobody likes the service.

  13. I am not riding in any car where I don’t see the drivers license/certification to drive the public around. I feel that this gives me someone to go back to if something goes wrong. I will have a name and a company to work with. It shows me that the driver has a dog in the fight, that he is insured, licensed, capable, background checked, and has something to lose if I complain. Uber gives me none of that. Cabs fares are regulated to eliminate price scalping or what Uber calls demand based pricing. Does it cost more for an Uber driver to operate their car on NYE or after a big event? If not, then why do their prices fluctuate? Uber is as bad an idea as was the plan to reestablish street cars downtown!

    • Tom – Have you ever actually used Uber? You get a name, a face, and a license plate number. Uber has record of that. Let’s say you need to report a driver or if you’ve lost something in a car. If you were flustered and didn’t think to write down that taxi number, you’re screwed.

      Maybe the taxi companies should lobby to have their regulated rates relaxed… but that’s been the cost of being a government approved cartel up until this point.

      If Uber is a bad idea for you… don’t use them.

    • Tom,
      Nobody is forcing you to ride with anyone you don’t want. Also, nobody has the right to tell anyone they can’t ride with who they want. It’s not up to you or city council to tell the public who they can accept a ride from. Also, if you ever used Uber, you would know that all the information YOU require personally is given to you before your Uber driver ever arrives. Furthermore, if you don’t like their way of pricing, then don’t use the service. However, the service works for a lot of people, so don’t try to ruin it for everyone else.

      • Carison,

        Our city is not telling anybody who they can and cannot accept a ride from. You will notice that the ordinance says nothing about what riders can and cannot do. The ordinances tell businesses what they can and cannot do. That’s how regulations work.

  14. I have really hard time believing public safety is the main concern he has about the ride share industry.

  15. John,
    Uber requires a background check and a vehicle inspection in order to become a driver. Also, all drivers are peer reviewed. It is not nor shall it ever be the responsibility of city council to decide who we may and may not accept a ride from. Your bias is obvious, public safety is not your concern. You have given Council Woman, Rebecca Viagran, who is charged with writing these regulations, thousands of dollars! Your concern is that your company, Yellow Cab, has its first competition ever in San Antonio. You posing this as your concern over public safety is insulting. Uber is embraced by the public. If you were truly concerned with San Antonio’s public safety, you would embrace any alternative that decreases our city’s ridiculous DWI statistics, which ride-sharing programs obviously do. People have every right to accept a ride from whomever they want, period. If you don’t like the service, then don’t use it, simple.

  16. This nonsensical opinion piece is less about Uber than it is a political hachet job, complete with bright shiny objects such as “Washington,” “Plouffe,” and “Obama.” I foolishly took a cab from the airport last night rather than Uber or Lyft. The driver was rude, did not know the City or the streets and refused to turn the cab around to let me off on my side of the street. I had three pieces of luggage and did not relish dodging the oncoming traffic as I crossed the street. Maybe the writer can include this as a real story rather than the nightmare scenarios he invented.

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