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Mayor Parker pressures Uber

Good.

Uber

After two weeks of rising tensions between the city and the ride-sharing service Uber, Mayor Annise Parker on Wednesday warned the company it risks losing the right to operate in Houston unless it submits a plan to bring its drivers into compliance with city regulations.

Parker’s message, conveyed in a letter she distributed to reporters, was her most aggressive step yet in an effort to ensure that the company, which has clashed with state and local regulators across the country, complies with city rules intended to protect its customers.

“What I want is for them to come in and I want a count of how many people are on their app as drivers and match those names and driver’s licenses with the ones who have registered, and I want everybody to come into compliance,” Parker said. “It’s that simple.”

Parker released a letter to Uber’s Texas manager, Chris Nakutis, demanding the company submit a detailed plan by Friday to bring drivers operating without city permits into compliance. Otherwise, the letter says, Uber could risk “further steps toward revocation” of its permit to operate as a so-called Transportation Network Company.

[…]

Uber officials have indicated the city’s process is cumbersome for the drivers, many of whom drive part-time. The city’s license requires an in-person vehicle inspection, and drivers must obtain their warrant history from the municipal courthouse.

Parker on Wednesday rejected many of the company’s arguments.

“Uber likes to pretend that if there are drivers operating without local permits that it’s either beyond their control, which is patently absurd, or it’s because there’s some fault on the part of the city in terms of the permitting process,” Parker said. “You can come in and in a day take care of everything.”

See here, here, and here for the background. A copy of the letter Mayor Parker sent is here. Uber has been a bad actor for awhile now. The fact that they and Lyft were operating in Houston prior to Council updating the vehicles for hire ordinance, which is something they have done in numerous other cities, was a big part of the argument against letting them in under anything but taxi-like regulations. I don’t agree with this. I continue to believe that the transportation network company idea is a good one, one for which there is clearly a lot of demand, and I don’t think it makes any sense for cities to pretend that they don’t exist. It’s unfortunate that Uber appears to be incapable of playing by the rules, and I’m not sure what it will take to change that, given that the main weapon against them is punishing the drivers that don’t actually work for them. This is where the Legislature could have a positive effect if they cared about that sort of thing, but in the absence of that I think this is the right approach to take. If this doesn’t make them take background checks more seriously, then go ahead and rescind their ability to get their drivers permitted and see what happens. Hopefully a little pain in their bottom line will make them come around.

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2 Comments

  1. darren k. says:

    I drove for Uber for 5 months, until our stupid city council (San Antonio) put a damper on the ridesharing. if a customer is willing to get into someone’s private vehicle for a cheaper, friendlier, more comfortable ride, that’s their choice! 100% of my riders love Uber & told me they don’t ever want to ride in a taxi again! taxis are regulated too much! we know it’s all about the money! it always is! their lobbyists, I’m sure, paid off city council! I gave a ride to a city prosecutor about a month ago & he told me Bexar County ranks #1 in the nation, for DUI’s! he told the city council they are idiots if they let Uber leave San Antonio! yet, they turned around & did just that! I have heard, they care more about the money generated by DUI charges, than the safety of the citizens! what hypocrites, to complain about regulations regarding people’s safety! I hope Tx. passes something soon & San Antonio will bring Uber back. the city (minus our mayor & city council) obviously wants Uber here! please, San Antonio, don’t elect Ivy Taylor for Mayor!

  2. Steven Houston says:

    Not that anyone would challenge any of the malarkey you came up with darren but Uber isn’t a great answer to the DUI problem, people drive drunk all the time even when the taxis are free. Further, cities do not share in any revenue a DUI charge may garner the state so enforcement of said laws is expensive when the city ties up scores of cops for hours, then has to pay them overtime for all court hearings, license revocation hearings, and related costs. A few years back, Dallas provided some estimates of how much DUI’s cost a city to enforce when asking the state to provide grant money, it amounted to a great deal. Why a city prosecutor would complain about a law he was not tasked to prosecute is another issue that waves a flag, the county handling all class B and above charges such as DUI.

    And whatever your personal experiences are as a driver with the company, most of those regulations you complain about are there for good reason. The company doesn’t properly screen drivers, allows drivers to play the system with surge pricing (friends in Los Angeles have stopped using it for that reason), and scores of other problems have arisen so by all means have your city council look at existing regulations to improve them but a free for all program like Uber is not in the public’s best interest.