Rideshare Ordinance Now on Hold, Pending Revisions

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Mayor Ivy Taylor calls for and end to personal attacks during the police union contract negotiations in December 2014. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Mayor Ivy Taylor calls for and end to personal attacks during the police union contract negotiations in December 2014. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Rideshare companies and supporters will receive a five-day grace period beginning March 1, the date the ordinance was supposed to take effect, while Mayor Ivy Taylor, members of City Council, and staff finalize a revised ordinance that will ease the regulatory burden on transportation network companies.

“We’ve been having some meetings and talking about some of the requirements,” Mayor Taylor said. “We want to stay flexible, but still stay true to our original focus of public safety.”

The ordinance approved in December is designed to regulate so-called TNCs, rideshare companies that connect drivers of personal vehicles to customers via a mobile application. San Antonio’s ordinance was one of the most restrictive in the nation and prompted Uber officials to announce a planned pullout from the city.  The ordinance was heavily supported by the local taxi and limousine industry, and protested by many urbanites who have to rely on the highly popular services.

Uber and Lyft called the ordinance a “barrier to the market.”

Two council members, Ron Nirenberg (D8) and Rey Saldaña (D4), voted against the ordinance in December.

Mayor Taylor released a statement Tuesday afternoon that outlines what she and the City’s working group sees as areas that the ordinance can be adjusted. At the top of that list is the “gap period” insurance requirement. The gap occurs when the mobile application is turned on by the driver, signaling availability to nearby customers seeking a ride, and when the driver actually accepts a fare-paying passenger. Under the ordinance, TNCs are required to maintain excess coverage of $200,000 even though they are passenger-free.

Click here to download Mayor Taylor’s statement.

“At this time, it is not feasible to implement the insurance standards specified in the existing ordinance because products that provide drivers with the required ‘gap’ coverage are not yet available in Texas,” Taylor stated. “I will ask my City Council colleagues to revisit the insurance requirements and delay the applicability of the gap coverage requirement until a conforming insurance product is available or the Texas Legislature takes action to set a statewide standard, whichever comes first.”

Also under consideration:

  • Allowing the 10-point fingerprint check of rideshare drivers to serve as an “in-person application” instead of requiring them to drop off all materials themselves at City Hall.
  • Random drug testing instead of pre-employment screening.
  • Adjusting the English-language proficiency requirement language to clarify that TNCs may determine what level is appropriate.
  • Revisiting the fee and payment structures.
  • Clarifying what kind of usage data the City will require of TNCs.

“It’s very fluid, up to now, these are some of the things that we’ve talked about recommending the council at least consider (revising),” Taylor said.

The $160 annual permit fee, for instance, could be lowered if a revision means the City can dedicate fewer staff resources to processing TNC drivers. In Austin and Houston, the fee is substantially less, “because in those cities they have an agreement where a percentage of gross revenue is supposed to be paid to the city,” Taylor said. “From a public policy perspective … do we want to be chasing down that (revenue) number from the companies?”

This list of considerations would check off several regulations that rideshare companies Lyft and Uber have pointed to as onerous, but not all.

(Read more: Uber, Lyft Concerned With More Than Insurance)

Yellow Cab San Antonio President John Bouloubasis released a statement expressing disappointment that City Council would consider revising the existing ordinance.

“Every day that TNCs are allowed to operate without basic, necessary insurance coverage, San Antonio passengers, drivers and visitors are at risk,” stated Bouloubasis. “It’s shocking to see our city government blink in the face of Uber’s high pressure lobbying tactics, and delay implementation of a fair, public-safety focused ordinance that creates a level playing field for all vehicles for hire.”

John Bouloubasis, president of Yellow Cab San Antonio, speaks with media after the City Countil Public Safety Committee meeting May 7, 2014. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

John Bouloubasis, president of Yellow Cab San Antonio, speaks with media after the City Countil Public Safety Committee meeting May 7, 2014. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Mayor Taylor will meet with each council member individually throughout this week and next to discuss the suggested recommendations. The earliest a revised ordinance could be brought to City Council for a vote would be March 5.

“Until then, the ordinance will not be enforced,” she said.

“I’ve had meetings with taxi representatives in the past few weeks … they’re very wary of this whole new option, but frankly it’s not about protecting their industry, it’s about how can we as a Council provide the most applicable regulatory framework to a new industry in town,” she said, adding that another look at the traditional vehicle for hire ordinances may be in the City’s future. “We want to make sure we are fair in the way that we treat all of the industries.”

It’s highly unusual for City Council to re-examine an ordinance even before it takes effect, but in this instance, Mayor Taylor and others on the council clearly have shown a sensitivity to public sentiment, and want to avoid any action that will characterize San Antonio as a city that is not open to new technologies and services in the marketplace. The debate over rideshare was seen by many as a litmus test for local government and whether it would embrace change essential to building a city more attractive to young professionals.

“We are pleased to hear the Mayor recognizes the current ridesharing ordinance is unworkable. In addition to the insurance provisions, we remain concerned with the duplicative driver requirements that do little more than add bureaucratic red tape for part time drivers trying to use their own resources to earn extra money on the Uber platform,” said Uber representative Debbee Hancock in an email. “We hope the rest of the council will take a comprehensive review of this ordinance and repeal these regulations.”

Related Stories:

City Crafting Alternative Rideshare Ordinance

MADD: San Antonio is Safer With Rideshare

Not Okay With Just Okay: Rideshare and Innovation in San Antonio

City Crafting Alternative Rideshare Ordinance

Uber to Leave San Antonio, Lyft on the Fence

USAA Offers Rideshare Insurance in Colorado 

10 thoughts on “Rideshare Ordinance Now on Hold, Pending Revisions

  1. Not about protecting their industry huh. Well, that’s not true. It’s the same with a lot of embedded companies who have almost complete market share. They don’t want competition so they cry about unfairness to the government. What a load!

    • “But frankly it’s not about protecting their industry” — yeah, I don’t believe that for one second, either. If you believe that, then you’ll also believe that taxis are more concerned about your safety than the TNCs are.

  2. Now that the city is poised to grant special allowances to the TNCs, creating an uneven playing field, I’ll be waiting for the “We totally support equal treatment” Rivard Report come out in support of the taxi and limousine services when they get stuck with a heavier regulatory burden.

    My guess is I’ll be waiting a long time.

    • I like what Dallas did. From what I heard they did the opposite of what San Antonio was trying to do at first, instead of creating regulation for TNCs they actually alleviated regulation for the Cabs. I think this is the direction we need to be heading in, this is a capitalist country and regulations need to be the absolute bare minimum needed to balance freedom and safety.

      • That’s an overly simplistic view of the situation in Dallas, but I’m perfectly fine with a mix of deregulation and added regulation to create a level playing field. Incidentally, A look at how the negotiations went in Dallas shows some pretty interesting parallels. San Antonians are so afraid of being seen as out of step, but we are no different from Dallas or any other city that is scrambling to come up with regulation for companies that are attempting to exploit a regulatory grey-zone. So no. They didn’t do the opposite from what San Antonio did. They did almost exactly what we did, and have since backed down a bit, but the regulations are still getting worked out.

        Now how many of you boys and girls think Dallas is behind the times because of the way they dealt with the TNCs? How about Berlin or Catalonia or Seattle or NYC?

  3. “Uber’s high pressure lobbying tactics”? I believe that Mr. Bouloubasis may be seeing this crisis from a different perspective. I think that the people that he see’s as “Uber’s Lobbyists” are ordinary people whom rely on this means of transportation for safe, reliant and NICE accommodating drivers. I point out ‘NICE’ because many of the current Yellow Cab Taxi drivers really lack a positive attitude, lack many driving skills and are not there for the safe transportation of their passengers. They are there for the money!! In other words, if you are not going far enough you are worthless to them no matter how unsuitable you are to drive. I was kicked out of a Taxi Cab on New Years Eve simply because I was not going more than 5 miles in distance. Got screamed at, and verbally pushed out of the vehicle and had to wait another 45 minutes in the Cold Rainy weather for another Cab ! WE NEED CHANGE

  4. The City Council is about to cave, and Uber’s billionaire CEO is laughing all the way to the bank. Uber will have a monopoly, soon squeezing out Lyft as well, and part-time drivers will make less than the minimum wage.

    And what has not received enough attention is a looming, class-action lawsuit where Uber drivers are suing the company demanding health insurance benefits, a living wage, the right to form a union, and choice over times employed. They claim Uber is their employer and de facto boss since Uber sets the terms and conditions of their employment. Read this article from the Wall Street Journal: http://www.wsj.com/articles/court-rulings-may-redefine-ride-sharing-drivers-1422922890

    What happens if the courts side with these disgruntled Uber drivers? With taxis “driven from the market,” so to speak, the uncouth, ill-educated, non-English-speaking foreigner—the dreaded taxi driver–willing to accept lower wages and no benefits, may be the next Uber employee to arrive at your downtown curb.

    This could be the real game changer.

    • I don’t think Uber drivers were ever expected to make a living wage. Its more part time extra money kind of work. The concept is simple, give an app user a ride for a few bucks. Once you add in all that other mess and demands the concept gets destroyed. Leave the government out.

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