Uber Rejects Proposed Rideshare Revisions

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Screenshots from the rideshare mobile applications Uber (left) and Lyft (right).

Screenshots from the rideshare mobile applications Uber (left) and Lyft (right).

Editor’s Note: After Thursday’s vote approving the revisions, Uber has announced plans to leave San Antonio. Click here to read the latest story, “Rideshare Revisions Pass: Uber Leaving Town, Lyft on ‘Pause.’

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Uber Texas General Manager Chris Nakutis sent a letter to media and City officials Wednesday afternoon stating that proposed revisions to the rideshare ordinance is not enough to keep the transportation network company (TNC) in San Antonio.

The revised draft ordinance significantly reduces the amount of processes drivers and TNCs have to go through to operate legally, and is scheduled to come up for a City Council vote Thursday morning. Click here for agenda details.

“Even with the proposed changes, this regulatory framework remains one of the most burdensome in the nation and stymies our ability to operate in San Antonio,” wrote Nakutis. “This is why we asked the city to repeal the entire ordinance and replace it with smart regulations similar to those adopted by nearly two dozen other jurisdictions, including Austin. Without a full repeal, we will be forced to leave town.”

The proposed revised ordinance:

  • removes insurance requirements during the “coverage gap,” when the rideshare app is on but the driver has not been matched with a customer, and reduces requirements when a driver is matched, but hasn’t picked up a passenger yet;
  • allows for random drug testing rather than mandatory drug testing;
  • grants a 14-day window for drivers to complete a background check issued by the TNC (instead of an advance-of-work, city-reviewed criminal background check that includes fingerprinting);
  • eliminates the annual vehicle permit fee ($160), application fee ($110), and two-year driver permit ($15);
  • establishes a fee to be charged each rideshare company based on the number of its local drivers, ranging from $625 for up to 10 drivers to $25,000 for more than 300;
  • allows TNCs to vouch for drivers instead of requiring them to appear in person to meet with San Antonio Police Department staff to submit their materials;
  • removes the requirement for drivers to carry a fire extinguisher;
  • removes the requirement for drivers to prove they are proficient in English.

Click here to download the complete list of recommended changes from the SAPD that will presented Thursday by Interim Police Chief Anthony Treviño. Included in that list is to conduct a review of the local rideshare industry and ordinance in December.

This interactive graphic from NOWCastSA compares rideshare ordinances across four major Texas Cities, but does not include the proposed revision ordinance that will be voted on by City Council Thursday.

Taxi drivers are required to submit to a background check and drug test before obtaining an annual $440 permit – among other requirements.

“Uber is playing the city like a bunch of rookie pawns,” said Yellow Cab President John Bouloubasis, who called the announcement an “idle threat to leave if the City doesn’t acquiesce to their every demand.”

Bouloubasis said he finds it hard to believe that Uber, worth almost $41 billion, can’t afford to comply with simple regulations that already require less of rideshare drivers than taxi drivers.

“Why can’t they just operate under good faith for once and then we can review it in December? The City got it right the first time.” he said. “They’re ducking accountability and responsibility. … They’ve got the mayor frightened of her own shadow. If she waffles and goes back on her word … people are going to wonder if she can make a decision and stay with it.”

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.

The original ordinance approved in December with a 7-2 vote is designed to regulate TNCs, rideshare companies that connect drivers of personal vehicles to customers via a mobile application. Two council members, Ron Nirenberg (D8) and Rey Saldaña (D4), voted against it. Uber officials announced in February a planned pullout from the city coinciding with the March 5 date the original ordinance was set to take effect. Rideshare company Lyft followed suit. 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.”

City officials responded to public outcry over the possible loss of rideshare service in the city, and set about crafting a revised ordinance last month. Rideshare companies and supporters received 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 finalized the revised ordinance. Now, even before the revised ordinance comes up for a vote, rideshare companies are renewing their pullout threat.

“Drivers and riders in San Antonio were hopeful when they learned Mayor Taylor  would delay implementation of the redundant requirements and lead the charge to create modern regulations for ridesharing in San Antonio,” Nakutis stated. “However this hope was short-lived as the City Council’s revised ordinance still includes many of the same duplicative and unworkable driver requirements. The anti-competitive provisions of the ordinance remain intact – many of them requiring drivers to spend time and money jumping through municipal hoops to achieve objectives already accomplished by the Uber platform.”

Recently retired Police Chief William McManus was the driving force behind the move last year to tightly regulate Uber and Lyft, branding the services and their independent drivers as lawbreakers. The public, on the other hand, embraced rideshare companies as a welcome transportation option, one that employs smart phone apps to put affordable ride service at the fingertips of customers. Many users cite it as the most effective tool available to combat drunk driving.

*Featured/top image: Screenshots from the rideshare mobile applications Uber (left) and Lyft (right).

This story was originally published on Wednesday, March 3, 2015.

Related Stories:

Commentary: Rideshare Should Get On Board with Existing Rules

Rideshare Ordinance Now on Hold, Pending Revisions 

City Crafting Alternative Rideshare Ordinance

MADD: San Antonio is Safer With Rideshare

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

Commentary: ‘Rideshare’ Needs Rules

7 thoughts on “Uber Rejects Proposed Rideshare Revisions

  1. If you look at the national pictured, Uber will leave if not caved to 100%. It’s about deregulating and strong arming the local politicians. Too bad they don’t have any social consciousness, actually it works against them so. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out! Good riddance to the fake sharing economy that Uber has everyone parroting for them.
    Thanks to Mayor Taylor and the council for holding their ground.

    https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/09/against-sharing/

    http://www.salon.com/2014/01/28/the_big_business_behind_the_sharing_economy_partner/

    Globally
    http://lenews.ch/2014/12/11/banned-blasted-blaming-and-threatening-blackmail-uber-to-blight-basel-2/

  2. The main theme operating here is that ride-sharing needs rules. That’s true. Every major city in the U.S. is operating with regulations for ride-sharing. Not one city is working with over-regulation. Only our city is trying to. I had to laugh at Mayor Taylor’s “Take that Austin” comment at yesterday’s “State of the City” speech regarding San Antonio’s appeal to millennials. (28 minutes of reading from a script, by the way. Nice work Mayor. So heartfelt.) Actually, it should be “Take that San Antonio”.

    Even though she obviously influenced the city council in the vote, as soon as local prominent citizens and the public lit her up, she did an about face. John Bouloubasis, head of Yellow Cab San Antonio was quick to point out that now, if she does another about face, she loses face…and her election. Just another example of stacking the deck against ride-sharing. It’s gone on since Uber hit town.

    But let’s not put all the blame on the Mayor for this mess. The blame goes to our former Police Chief McManus. I attended every city council meeting involving Uber, and witnessed a bully at work. Pure arrogance and totally vindictive. His toes got stepped on because Uber did not cease and desist. What a blast to his ego! The Chief handed the council a list of HIS OWN regulations before he headed to CPS. The Chief had no right to issue citations and impoundments. Enforce the laws Chief, not make them up. Why wasn’t
    the city council asked to rule on ride-sharing at the time? Let’s hope Chief Trevino has more insight.

    I am a college graduate, former school teacher, former Naval Intelligence Officer and a 35 year host of a radio show, and an Uber driver. I’m not a brainiac, but I’m not stupid. I’m smart enough to know that I drive my own car safer than someone who drives a company car. I know that Uber saves lives with the technology. I know that ride-sharing is important to any growing city for so many reasons.

    Before posting criticism, take an Uber or Lyft ride. You’ll soon figure it out.

  3. I’m a little surprised that Uber’s letter didn’t really give much information about why they are still planning to pull out. From what I’ve seen the proposed changes seem to be pretty fair. If TNC think that they can go into a highly regulated environment completely unregulated then they should probably rethink their business plan. At this point, it seems that they are basically saying our way or it’s not going to happen. After they penetrate any markets that are jumping on the bandwagon without questioning anything they’ll be back. I just got back from Vegas where they charge $3 just to use a credit card, so I’m definitely a fan of competition to drive down costs and improve the product for consumers. And I do think that Uber/Lyft have pretty solid business plans and checks in place, but there will be others that follow in their footsteps that don’t, some regulation is not the worst thing. At the end of the day, I hope for competition in this space but also don’t think that we should allow these companies to completely disregard the rules without getting rid of them for people who’ve been fulfilling these needs for decades.

  4. U=unregulated
    B=belligerent
    E=egotistical
    R=recriminatory

    I hope a local company can step in, follow the rules, and provide competition to taxi cabs. If Uber/Lyft depart, this would be an opportunity to show the rest of Texas that San Antonio can lead and innovate. Why can’t responsible entrepreneurs from here enter this market?

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