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San Antonio will take its time on Uber and Lyft

As was the case in Houston, San Antonio City Council is in no rush to take action on updating their vehicles for hire ordinances to deal with Uber and Lyft.

Lyft

After an emotional and colorful Citizens to be Heard session, the City Council Public Safety Committee unanimously agreed to hold-off on sending a staff-recommended ordinance revision to City Council that would allow rideshare companies to operate in San Antonio. The committee unanimously passed a motion calling for a task force comprised of local stakeholders to continue research and discussion on developing rideshare regulation.

The committee will take up the issue again in three months during November’s meeting. Traditional taxi and limo companies applauded the decision.

“It was beautiful, I almost wanted to jump and kiss all the council people that were here,” said local cab driver Cruz Chavira after the meeting Wednesday afternoon. “I’m glad that they’re taking their time with this. We felt they were being rushed and we couldn’t figure out why … just sit down and do the homework.”

This decision delays resolution to the hotly-debated presence of Lyft and Uber, who began operating in San Antonio in March.

“Do we have all the answers today? I don’t think so,” said San Antonio Police Department Assistant Director Steven Baum, who presented the staff recommendation and urged the Committee to allow the revision to go to City Council. “If we move forward and adopt (this) revision, we will be back and have to adjust again … if we keep pushing it down the road we will never find all the answers.”

See here, here, and here for the background. San Antonio finished up a major overhaul of their vehicles for hire code in 2013, just in time for the likes of Uber and Lyft to show up on the scene, so I can understand to a point the reluctance to dive back in and do it all over again, but I will suggest that it doesn’t get any easier if you wait longer. One Council member is quoted in the story saying “San Antonio is not like Houston”, but I’d suggest the basic concerns are the same and there’s really not that much difference between the two cities. The main issues – insurance, background checks, access for the disabled, etc – are generally the same and have been studied by other cities as well as by Houston. Nobody really knows yet what the effect of these new companies will be. Whether you follow the example of another city that has already addressed this or you strike out on your own, you’ll want to revisit how it’s going at some point.

Still, I understand the hesitation. Perhaps some of that emotion and color from the session had an effect as well. The Current provides a few highlights.

Uber

A recurring crazy argument that some ride-share opponents honed in on was that poor people do not have smartphones and elderly people do not know how to use smartphones. That argument tapered out after a 68-year-old woman who no longer drives and can’t even use one of her arms, told the committee that she regularly uses her smartphone to catch a Lyft ride. In fact, that’s how she got to the public safety committee meeting. As for poor people not having access to smartphones, have you tried finding any phone recently that’s not a smartphone?

Here’s another fun one. One ride-share opponent has blown the conspiracy out into the open. Lyft and Uber are actually puppets of the global-masterminds over at Google. To be clear, according to this commenter, ride sharing is not about ride sharing; it’s about stealing personal data from consumers.

While we could continue to explore a few more not-so-crazy-but-still-kind-of-crazy comments from ride-share opponents, we’ll end with the craziest comment of them all because the rest are sort of repetitive.

One invigorated man whose voice crescendoed into thunder as he spoke, ended his anti-ride-sharing rant with an outrageous comparison: According to this speaker, allowing Lyft and Uber to operate by changing city code would actually be like slavery and San Antonio would be the Confederacy. His speech was met with thunderous applause from the taxicab lobby. So there’s that.

Are you asking yourselves why we didn’t include any crazy ride-share supporter arguments in this story? The simple answer is, there weren’t any wacky arguments coming from that side. And we don’t want to marginalize legitimate concerns posed by opponents either. Those were there. But crazy is like a car crash and you can’t look away.

I will just note that my mother, whose age I am not at liberty to disclose, is the queen of her iPhone. The plural of “anecdote” is not “data”, but I think it’s fair to say that there are plenty of people from generations before mine that can handle modern technology. The logical extension of that argument is that there’s no need to innovate at all, which is arguably how we got to this point in the first place. Good luck sorting it all out, San Antonio. I’ll check back on you in November.

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