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Dallas and Seattle redoing vehicle for hire ordinances

I’ve said before that the review of Houston’s vehicle for hire codes will be a process and not a one-time deal, and that we ought to be prepared to review what we do now in another six or twelve months since we don’t really know what the effect of whatever we do here will be. Case in point, Dallas:

A proposed transportation-for-hire ordinance is intended to “create a level playing field,” says the draft outline sent to Mayor Mike Rawlings, the Dallas City Council, city manager A.C. Gonzalez and members of Sandy Greyson’s work group late Wednesday.

The ordinance, which comes eight months after the debate over Uber and other app-ordered car services pulled into Dallas City Council chambers, would, among other things, do away with “caps on the number of transportation-for-hire vehicles” and “regulations of fares.” Right now, for instance Yellow Cab owns most of the 2,022 stickers needed to get a cab on the road. The proposed ordinance would essentially end Yellow Cab’s position as a “regulated monopoly,” as council member Scott Griggs called it in January.

The proposed ordinance also requires that every company with a car on the road provides insurance — “regardless of whether the driver has a separate policy.”

[…]

Greyson and other council members and city officials won’t comment on the proposal until after tomorrow’s meeting of the work group, which begins at 11 a.m. Several messages have also been left for Uber and Lyft representatives.

Says the proposed ordinance, every company must have an operating authority permit, which lists every car in the fleet, expires annually and can be suspended and isn’t transferable. Yellow Cab would need the permit; so too Uber’s black-car service or Lyft’s ride-sharing service or, for that matter, horse carriages or pedicabs — or any company that charges for ridesharing (as opposed to, say, carpooling).

Drivers will need separate permits, which they can only get after extensive background checks, a drug test and a training class that’s “sponsored by the city and run by a contractor on city regulations, familiarity with the city, and customer service.” That permit would be good only for two years, and must be displayed in the vehicle at all times.

Companies and their drivers aren’t the only thing needing permits. Vehicles will need them too — and, for starters, they can’t be older than 10 years or have more than 250,000 miles on them. But the draft ordinance says there’s no minimum cost for a vehicle — a far cry from the $45,000 minimum Yellow Cab tried to set last August in its efforts to ride Uber out of town.

That operating authority permit would cost $1,000 per year. There’s also a fee for the driver’s permit: $50 a year. On top of that, there’s also a fee for the vehicle permit: $100 a year.

The draft ordinance does allow for hailing by app — which Yellow Cab also tried to stop last year — and demands “city-wide service,” in an attempt to address Transportation and Trinity River Project Committee chair Vonciel Jones Hill’s unsubstantiated claims that Uber is engaged in red-lining south of the Trinity River.

Via Unfair Park, and you can see a copy of the draft ordinance at either link. There’s a committee meeting scheduled for today to go over the proposals. I note that there’s a fair bit of overlap with the proposed Houston ordinance, so perhaps we are groping our way towards a consensus of some kind.

Meanwhile, Christopher Newport, the former Chief of Staff of the Administration & Regulatory Affairs Department and current Chief of Staff to Mayor Parker, left this link in a comment on the draft ordinance post:

A coalition group has collected enough signatures to suspend a newly-passed ordinance regulating companies like UberX and Lyft, and now Mayor Ed Murray wants to work with all stakeholders to reach a new agreement.

The group, which received more than $400,000 in donations from Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, submitted more than 36,000 signatures today to the City Clerk’s office, more than double what was required (16,510).

The City of Seattle has a referendum process in place for situations like this, and if citizens can gather enough signatures — eight percent of the total number of votes cast for mayor in the last mayoral election (206,377) — newly-approved ordinances will be put on hold and then voted on by Seattle residents.

The ordinance, which passed in March and attempted to thread the needle by simply capping the number of vehicle for hire permits while taking some time to review how things were going, has been suspended and all parties are back at the table to try to negotiate a comprehensive solution. Maybe they should take a peek at what Houston and Dallas are doing and see what they think about that.

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