UPDATE: Council looks to merge ordinances for new transportation service
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -
Local taxi and Uber drivers agree Uber should be regulated.
"We do need to regulate Uber only for the fact that it's not fair,” said A.J. Howard, Taxi Driver.
But they disagree on how.
"If you begin to create a one-size fits all ordinance, for both taxi cabs and TNC vehicles, it becomes unfair.” Said Daniel Rollins, Uber Driver.
Last week Councilman Ken Smith and Chris Anderson were on opposite sides of the issue as well.
On Tuesday they sang a different tune and came together to merge two ordinances into one.
"I think the new ordinance co-sponsored by Smith and myself takes certain elements of his bill regarding taxis and limos and other vehicles for hire and takes most of my transportation language and also creates a level playing field for all companies that is safe for the consumer," said Anderson.
Smith says they're even working to ease up on the regulations for the taxi drivers and not require taxi companies to provide a 24-7 dispatch location.
Smith says they are even looking to allow taxi companies to provide their own background checks and inspections, just like Uber; putting both companies on what they believe is a more even playing field.
"Some of those types of points we will probably be looking at to see how we can further de-regulate certain aspects like that for the taxi industry," said Smith.
The council voted to deter voting on the ordinance until Tuesday, December 16th.
The ride sharing service, Uber, is now available in Chattanooga, but city council members think there are still some things to be worked out.
Councilman Ken Smith and Chris Anderson each wrote their own ordinance to help regulate the service.
One ordinance wants to bundle Uber with other taxi services, the other gives them their own rules.
Uber is considered a transportation service, not a taxi.
"We don't employ the drivers. We don't own any of the vehicles, these are all independent contractors," said Dave Baremore, Public Policy Associate.
But now it's a debate on whether or not Uber should be regulated like one.
Councilman Anderson says no-way.
"There are different methods of payment, different ways to get a ride, different methods of transportation itself. This is a technical advancement we need to embrace," said Anderson.
But Councilman Smith says some taxi services in the area use technology too and believes they can all be regulated together.
"So as opposed to fashioning an ordinance of one new industry coming in, we're trying to address them in my ordinance all as passenger vehicles for hire," said Smith.
That ordinance will mean the city will regulate any transportation service, instead of the company.
"So a taxi cab driver has to go through the transportation board, this would say an Uber driver also has to go through that same certification and it puts that background check and all of those additional checks for that particular individual into the same hands of the organization that regulates it," said Smith.
However, Uber already does employee screening and Anderson says he hopes to keep it that way, while also requiring $1 million dollars in insurance and more thorough back ground checks.
"We believe Councilman Anderson's hits the mark and we hope to see that one cross the finish line," said Baremore.
The Uber representative said if regulations become a burden there is the chance they could decide to leave the scenic city.
The transportation committee will be holding a public hearing next Tuesday at 3 p.m.