No surprise here. I had thought the ordinance was still in committee, but it went before the full Council yesterday. It was of course tagged – we weren’t going to have this vote only one week after the HERO vote, no way in hell on that. Most of the story recapitulates stuff we know, so let’s see what the Council members are saying about it.
“I’m not satisfied with what has been presented so far, and we need to make sure we have this covered properly with regard to people with disabilities,” said Councilman Robert Gallegos, who noted his brother is in a wheelchair.
Gallegos and Councilman Dave Martin both mentioned that the council last week passed an equal rights ordinance prohibiting discrimination against more than a dozen protected groups, including those with disabilities, and should be consistent.
Taxis must provide trips for disabled passengers, but the same demand is not placed on the so-called transportation networking companies, Yellow Cab lobbyist Cindy Clifford said.
Tina Paez, director of the city’s regulatory affairs department, told council members in a memo that the city plans its own tweaks to the ordinance, including one aimed at getting companies like Uber and Lyft to deploy wheelchair-accessible vehicles among 5 percent of their drivers.
Councilman Michael Kubosh was concerned that setting a goal to achieve accessibility would not produce access for the disabled.
“I have a goal to lose 100 pounds,” he said. “You can have a goal. No one is going to punish you if I don’t meet your goal.”
The council discussion also included mention of Uber and Lyft’s decisions to launch preemptively in February, despite city officials urging them to be patient.
Councilman Mike Laster said Wednesday that 160 citations have been issued to the companies for operating illegally, 142 to Uber and 18 to Lyft; none has gone to court, he said.
“That just goes to show you these operators are operating illegally,” Laster said. “Either we have ordinances that we enforce or we don’t, and I think that’s part of the discussion.”
Lyft is still making some noise about not liking the city’s background check criteria, saying theirs is more stringent. I expect that will get sorted out. The main thing I’m curious about at this point is what the headcount is for the ordinance. The only Council member that I am sure has taken a firm position is CM Costello, who announced his support for Uber and Lyft more than a month ago. Houston Mayors generally don’t bring ordinances to the table to get voted down, so my assumption is that this will pass, I just don’t have a good feel for who’s voting which way at this point. What are your thoughts?
One more point to make is that I got an email from Joshua Sanders on behalf of Lyft Wednesday night that disputed the claims made by Lauren Barrash, founder of The Wave, about Lyft. Specifically, they denied that Lyft drivers have no shift limits or rest requirements. A comment left by a self-identified Lyft driver also addressed this, saying “After each 12 hours of being in Driver Mode, the system boots you out for 8 hours to get some rest”. I offered to print a statement about this by Lyft spokesperson Chelsea Wilson, but didn’t hear anything further from them.