Mayor Ivy Taylor issued a brief statement Friday following a day-long planning retreat with City Council and senior staff at Phil Hardberger Park outlining a plan to get rideshare companies Uber and Lyft to restart operations in San Antonio.
City Manager Sheryl Sculley has been tasked by the mayor to “develop a framework for operating agreements which would allow for TNCs to return to San Antonio during a pilot period,” Taylor said in her statement to the media.
City Council and the mayor are about to start the annual summer recess in July, but staff will be on the job, preparing the fiscal year 2016 budget among other major projects. While the council will not meet formally, members will be working. Councilmember Roberto Treviño (D1) will represent the Council as the pilot agreements are developed.
Mayor Taylor expects the Council will take up the matter in early August.
“We are heartened to hear that Mayor Taylor has made it a top priority to bring back ridesharing this summer, and we are excited to continue working with the Mayor and City Council to make this a reality,” stated Uber spokesperson Debbee Hancock in an email.
Uber and Lyft closed up shop within City limits on April 1 despite revisions in the transportation network company (TNC) ordinance that relaxed some of the tougher provisions passed late last year. Company drivers have since been legally picking up passengers only in suburban cities, such as Windcrest, Alamo Heights, Olmos Park and Hollywood Park. The ride-booking mobile applications are allow drivers to drop passengers off in San Antonio, but not pick them up inside the city limits.
The City debate on how to regulate rideshare companies, or TNCs, went on for months in the Council’s Public Safety Committee, executive sessions, citizens to be heard, and in Council chambers last year and then again early this year. Uber and Lyft representatives said in March that the insurance and background check requirements of the current ordinance remained too onerous. The taxi and limo industry praised the regulations, which contained fewer hoops for TNC drivers than taxi drivers – yet failed to stop rideshare companies from leaving town.
Loss of the transportation service and amenity became a significant campaign issue raised at dozens of mayoral forums that ultimately concluded with Taylor’s victory in the June 13 runoff election. Former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and former state Rep. Mike Villarreal were said to be the candidates that would bring rideshare back while Taylor held strong to the fact that Uber and Lyft were the ones that chose to leave town. She seems to have warmed up to the idea since talking with Tech Bloc advocates and taking office.
“The campaign has led me to understand that we need to have more public, more focused discussions about transportation in the city,” Taylor said during an interview with the Rivard Report right before the June 13 runoff election, adding that she had become more acquainted with the city’s growing tech community. “There is a group of people extremely focused on transportation network companies (Uber and Lyft). I’m getting to know a lot more people in the tech community, and I’m glad they’re getting involved, I’m glad they’ve formed Tech Bloc, but I’m not sure everyone feels as intensely as they do about that particular issue.”
Taylor’s recent visit with Uber executive Adam Blinick in California likely added to her perspective on TNCs.
Uber, too, may be warming up to further compromise on a new ordinance after state lawmakers failed to act on more relaxed regulations during the last legislative session, a move that would have overruled the local ordinance.
“I’m glad to be part of the process and appreciate the mayor’s leadership on this,” Treviño said of his assignment which was announced during the Council’s Friday retreat. “We’re going to focus on finding something that provides a (fair) solution. … There’s a lot of work to be done.”
Taylor was not available for further comment early Friday evening.
*Featured/top image: Elected Mayor Ivy Taylor gives a victory speech during her election party on June 13, 2015. Photo by Joan Vinson.