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Uber to abandon Corpus Christi

Another one bites the dust.

Uber

In what has become a familiar move for Uber, the vehicle-for-hire company announced Wednesday it will cease operations in Corpus Christi, pointing to “unnecessary” regulations recently adopted by the city.

Corpus Christi’s City Council approved new regulations this week that would require app-based vehicle-for-hire drivers to undergo a fingerprint background check, a requirement Uber has resisted in most markets. The company plans to end services in Corpus Christi on Sunday, two hours before the new law goes into affect, according to the Corpus Christi Caller Times.

“The proposed ordinance would require drivers to complete unnecessary and duplicative steps that make it difficult for them to earn extra money and hurt our ability to ensure that riders have access to reliable and affordable transportation,” Sarfraz Maredia, Uber’s general manager in South and East Texas, wrote in a letter to Corpus Christi’s city council on March 4.

Corpus Christi will be the third city Uber has left this year in response to local laws. In February, the company ceased operations in Galveston and Midland after the cities voted to enact background-check requirements.

[…]

Despite Uber’s disdain for mandatory fingerprint-based background checks, the company has continued to operate in Houston, where drivers are required to undergo those background checks.

Corpus Christi Mayor Nelda Martinez said she feels Uber is more lax when it comes to accepting regulations in larger cities. Houston is Texas’ largest city with over 2 million residents. Corpus Christi, with a population of around 316,000, is the eighth largest city in Texas.

“It is unfortunate that they believe that comprehensive background checks with fingerprints and safety in smaller cities are less important,” she said Wednesday. “We have been working with them since the fall of 2014 and what makes me most sad about them leaving Corpus Christi is that they are leaving loyal customers and drivers who depend on them.”

Martinez said she would welcome the company back in the future, but would “absolutely not” consider softening the ordinance.

So the pattern is pretty clear here – your city can have fingerprint checks, or it can have Uber, but not both. Unless your city is Houston, apparently. But how long will that be the case? With that in mind, I sent the following questions to Uber spokesperson Debbee Hancock:

1. Is it now Uber’s policy to no longer operate in cities that require fingerprint checks?

2. Does this mean that Uber plans to pull out of Houston? if not, then how does Uber respond to Corpus Mayor Martinez’s statement that “Uber is more lax when it comes to accepting regulations in larger cities”?

And the answers I received:

We know from our experience in Houston that these rules can have a devastating impact on our ability to provide the experience that drivers and riders have come to love and expect. ​Since then, we have made the difficult decision to cease operations in every city that has adopted new laws that require similarly​ duplicative r​egulations on drivers.

We have also made a major shift in our expansion strategy.​ At the beginning of 2014, the only people in Texas that had access to Uber were the people of Dallas. With a goal of making transportation as reliable as running water, we rapidly expanded our operations across the state. Today, millions of Texans in more than a dozen cities can open the app to request a ride.​ ​

Most cities have rapidly embraced this innovative transportation option. In fact, multiple cities where we did not already operate, such as San Marcos and Beaumont, invited us to launch by​ proactively​ adopting pro-ridesharing regulations. We have limited our expansion plan to cities that adopt similar regulations as Beaumont, San Marcos, College Station, and Abilene.

We have been monitoring the impact these regulations are having on riders and drivers, and we’re concerned by the trends we see (barriers to entry for drivers, longer wait times, fewer available rides late at night when people need it most , etc.). It is no surprise that these regulations don’t work for ridesharing since they were designed for the taxicab industry long before this technology existed. It is our hope that we can work with the City to modernize the process so we can continue to operate in Houston.

So there you have it. I’m just speculating here, but if the Austin rideshare referendum passes, I won’t be surprised if we see some action in Houston afterward.

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3 Comments

  1. Joshua ben bullard says:

    Sometimes I can’t figure out who’s doing the most drugs, is it the council members or is it the taxi “medallion” holders thats pushing the product-uber pulls from a market because they know they have the upper hand,the traveling business community is controlling and will not tolerate local corrupt elected officials locking in the market in the name of safety-that game is played out,yet the council members and the majority medallion holder continue to dream of yesteryear’s good times believing that one day they can make it back to that closed forced market island,”only in a rerun kid”.uber has awaken a giant,I still say that in 2017 the state legislature will take it 100% to the state.2400 taxi medallions in Houston ,approx 2000 owned by one man,that’s more ownership than Los Angeles and new York combined, not corpus but Houston has the most corrupt medallion ownership world wide-thats why uber won’t pull out-way to much money in Houston because the medallion holders were gauging the citizens of Houston.we houstonians price to the airport drops to 26. $ from 60$ they don’t assume a discount has infused,rather they feel like someone had their hands deep in their pocket, Turner should abolish the taxi medallion in Houston before uber does it for him.

  2. Ross says:

    Screw Uber. They need to be subject to the same safety rules as the rest of the taxi industry. Part of that is proper background checks, which can’t be done without fingerprints.

    Joshua, the City of Houston sets the rates for taxi rides to and from the airports, not the taxi companies.

  3. Joshua ben bullard says:

    The city of Houston government also sets the limits on how many taxis can pick up houstonians-causing the citizens to pay double and triple what “Travis kalinik” uber charges -,if you don’t remove the limits on taxi entry-uber will take over 100% of market. Example just because you scream and yell while someone is kicking your ass-it doesn’t change the fact that your still getting your ass kicked-i hope that clears it up for you “Mr safety ,my ass”…