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City Council member John Crescimbeni
Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Mar. 23, 201612:00 PM EST

Council committee resumes efforts to find ways to regulate Uber, Lyft

by: David Chapman

If City Council is going to craft a bill that transportation network companies and the taxi industry can agree on, it’s going to take some effort.

Regulating — or maybe even deregulating — how customers get from Point A to Point B is back at the local level after the Legislature’s effort fell short during its recent session.

“I don’t want to go through this process again,” lamented council member Matt Schellenberg, chair of the council’s Vehicle for Hire Committee.

The longtime disagreements reared themselves Tuesday, the first time the group has met since the session ended.

Taxi cab companies pay commercial insurance for their drivers, including when drivers take their cars home. Transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft cover drivers with a $1 million policy once they are connected to customers.

Taxi cab companies go through city inspections and background checks. The technology-based companies do that privately.

Taxi cab companies are required by law to have full-time commercial insurance. Uber and Lyft drivers have different amounts depending on the situation.

Uber and Lyft lobbyists told the committee their platform is different from that of traditional cab companies.

However, as council member John Crescimbeni told them, the platform meant nothing to him — he wants the same rules for everyone.

For background checks, the committee asked about going the private route for both sides. Uber and Lyft representatives agreed.

However, Grady Braddock, Checker Cab and Shuttle general manager and representing taxi companies, said he thought the city should still have oversight for public safety reasons.

Committee member Bill Gulliford said with set standards it shouldn’t be a problem.

Braddock said privatizing those checks would mean the city is “skating on very thin ice” and there wouldn’t be oversight — another disagreement.

Vehicle inspections were up next. Privatization, as long as inspectors were Automotive Service Excellence certified, Uber and Lyft were for it. Braddock said he thought the city should still have that oversight — another disagreement.

Those background checks would be provided to the city on an audit basis, but the companies were resistant to the idea of simply providing all of them to the city.

One action item from the meeting actually took place later that evening. Council by emergency action extended a moratorium on medallions required by taxi drivers for identification and compliance. The extension was set to expire April 1 but now will go another 90 days.

With the Legislature punting and no local agreement near, the committee also will be stepping up its frequency — it will meet weekly instead of monthly as it has the past several months.

They’ll need a few more agreements and decisive decisions before it’s over.

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