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Uber’s “safe rides fee”

From Wonkblog on Friday:

Uber is rolling out a $1 surcharge today on all rides offered through its less expensive car-for-hire service UberX. This isn’t the company’s black town car operation, but the down-market version that enables anyone with a spare back seat to give rides to strangers (with smart phones) for money.

The surcharge has an explicit label: It’s a “safe rides fee.” And it mimics a similar $1 line item that competitor Lyft calls a “trust & safety fee.”

So why are your e-hailing receipts growing more complicated? The economics of peer-to-peer transportation services are, too, as companies like Uber and Lyft increasingly fall under the same expectations that govern the heavily regulated taxi industry.

A large part of what’s going on here is that most personal auto insurance policies don’t cover commercial uses of a car (whether you’re using your car to deliver pizzas or people). That means that if you get in a crash while giving someone a ride in your Camry for pay, your regular insurance company probably won’t cover it. So, then, who will?

[...]

Now, as more cities and states look to regulate peer-to-peer transportation providers, these companies will inevitably need to close the liability and safety gaps created when non-professional drivers use their personal cars to make money. They will need to clarify, as Uber has, that commercial insurance covers drivers even in between trips, on the way from one fare to another and when there’s no passenger in the back seat.

I presume this now applies in Houston as well. Has anyone had a ride on Uber since they went rogue and started charging fares?

Meanwhile, some high profile folks in San Antonio are starting a petition drive to get their Council to approve Uber and Lyft.

The 80/20 Foundation, the private foundation of Rackspace Co-founder and Chairman and interim CEO Graham Weston, has launched a petition on Change.org calling for Mayor Julián Castro’s support of rideshare in San Antonio.

“The City of San Antonio should embrace policies in support of entrepreneurship, ridesharing and welcome these apps to San Antonio to combat drunk driving, reduce road congestion, make a positive impact on the environment and improve public safety and transportation options for our community,” states the petition, 775 people have digitally signed it as of 4:23 p.m. Wednesday.

[...]

San Antonio’s City Council Public Safety Committee is set to meet on May 7 to hear the results of McManus’ and his team’s research and inquiry into how to deal with Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Lyft and Uber.

It’s possible that accommodating ordinances/regulation could be created as the California Public Utilities Commission did in September 2013 – but it’s also possible that they’ll recommend to limit or outlaw rideshare operations.

They have a copy of the lawsuit that was filed previously. Perhaps this persuasion effort will be somewhat more laid back than the one in Houston was. When is this going to be on Council’s agenda again?

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