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Costello comes out for Uber and Lyft

An email sent out by CM Stephen Costello:

CM Stephen Costello

CM Stephen Costello

Over the past few months, City Council has been discussing proposed changes to Chapter 46, the city ordinance dealing with vehicles for hire. I’ve listened during committee meetings and public sessions. I’ve studied the presentations and analyzed the data.

Most importantly, I’ve spoken to and read emails from my constituents from across the city – countless Houstonians from all walks of life who want and need more ways to get around our growing city.

I write today to speak out in favor of revising Chapter 46 so that new entrants to Houston’s transportation market may operate. Citizens overwhelmingly want more options, and I think it’s our duty to not stand in the way of competition and better technology and service. In the process, we can bring new jobs to our great city.

While I believe that government is not in place to create jobs, I do believe it should help foster an environment where the private sector can flourish and grow. By modernizing Chapter 46 we will be doing just that. Expanded free market competition will force current companies in existence to improve their product, while requiring new companies to find their own place in the market.

As a business owner myself, I know that we cannot underestimate the value of competition. In fact, on April 21st, the Federal Trade Commission released a relevant statement: “Competition is at the heart of America’s economy. Vigorous competition among sellers in an open marketplace can provide consumers the benefits of lower prices, higher quality products and services, and greater innovation. This is just as true for app-based transportation and other kinds of P2P services as well.”

I’ve heard a lot of talk about a level playing field. The status quo is not synonymous with a level playing field. The city will continue to ensure businesses that operate in our jurisdiction operate within our regulatory framework. While we must always protect the public good, it is not the role of the government to protect companies from competition, quite the opposite. We opened Hobby Airport to international flights to compete with Bush Intercontinental, and I will continue to advocate for business-friendly ordinances that will increase competition citywide.

Giving more options to the senior who needs a ride to the doctor’s office, the student who has to get to class, the person who’s had too much to drink and doesn’t want to get behind the wheel, the businessperson needing a quick ride to catch a flight is a good thing.

City government should not be picking winners and losers. I don’t want to dictate who gets the fare. That is up to the consumer, but that can’t happen unless we first update the outdated way we think and operate as a city. Houston shouldn’t lag behind. We should be ahead of the curve; we are a global leader.

I’m ready to move forward. I’m ready to work with my colleagues and the administration to update Chapter 46 to allow Houstonians, not city government, decide which private company they choose to rely on for their personal transportation needs.

Sincerely,

Stephen C. Costello

As far as I know, CM Costello is the first Council member to publicly announce a position on revising Chapter 46 to allow Uber and Lyft and similar services to operate in Houston. The draft ordinance has been released, but as the Ordinance Feedback page says, there is no date for it to be brought before Council just yet. I suspect this is one part wanting to get the non-discrimination ordinance passed, and one part lining up support for the Chapter 46 revisions. I figure we’ll start hearing from more Council members on this shortly.

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6 Comments

  1. stewart resmer says:

    so the message being sent here is, go ahead and ignore the cities cease and desist orders, offer up evasive answers to yes or no questions by council slip in phone charts and graphs in to the deck submitted to council, totaly ignore rule 46 as it stands including redlining and flagrant non compliance of the ADA (Americans with Disablities Act) in whom they service and in their hiring practices, and start operating regardless of the good faith effort of council, misrepresent the staus of the claimed insurance policy here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/214635531/Insurance-Policy . and as you do then trun a blimd eye and disregard the consumer advisories issued by numerous state commissioners across the country citing gaps in coverage for all parties including individuals simply crossing the street?

    Wow, dont mess with Texas?

    This is an amazing standard for any sitting council person anywhere across the nation to hold I say?

  2. Kevin says:

    Wow! Stephen Costello, the owner of Costello, inc. Engineering and Surveying. Your definition of competition appears to be allowing people to circumvent pesky impediments to competition such as;

    Laws in place for passenger safety, licensing, criminal background checks and insurance requirements.

    Does that rule of thumb apply to engineering also. Imagine how much cheaper and quicker we could offer many of your services if we did not have to worry about pesky licenses, insurance, etc…. Same rule of thumb would apply to airline industry, medical industry, and food preparation, and many other fields. It sounds like those past few months you have spent studying the presentations and analyzing the data have really paid off.

  3. Ross says:

    Looks like the Yellow Cab rent seeking battalion is out in force today. The real key is to issue as many cab medallions as the market wants. There is no reason to artificially limit the number of permits.

  4. Kevin says:

    Hey Ross. I will call your hand. Lets not limit medallions (sorry cab industry). However, lets make these new players play by the rules, regulations, vehicle safety standards, driver background checks, etc… that the city has mandated on other similar vehicle for hire services. Can you agree to that? If yes I will be the first to sign your petition.

  5. Shane says:

    Please check the Hiring practice of Both Lyft and Uber. Background Checks and Licenseing are required as well as insurance.

  6. Ross says:

    Given the experiences my colleagues from overseas have had at the hands of cab drivers who meet all the regulations, I suspect they are pretty toothless, but I have no objection to requiring all for hire services to meet the same standards.

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