2 min read
Posted on 07.28.15
  • 2 min read
  • Posted on 07.28.15
  • Filed under
  • Uber
  • taxicabs
  • MTC
  • Metropolitan Taxicab Commission
  • ride-sharing
  • St. Louis
  • City
  • County
  • technology

Uber has improved the transportation choices for millions of people. Its supporters say it's easy to use, an additional source of income for its mostly part-time drivers, often less expensive than traditional taxis, and sometimes more convenient. It holds out the promise that more people can live without owning a car, or with fewer cars in their family.

On the other hand, plenty of people rely on and trust traditional taxis. The companies that operate them and their drivers are regulated for safety and required by rule or by law to take all riders to all neighborhoods and to accept cash as payment. The people who already make a living driving us around worry about their livelihoods as they compete with additional drivers; and those who lack the credit cards and smart phones to use the Uber service worry about how they are going to get around.

And, there are timely policy questions for regulators and elected officials about whether Uber is fundamentally any different than a cab company, and if it isn’t, then why should it be treated differently.

Here is where I stand:

  • Stopping or slowing technology will leave our region behind as the rest of the world embraces change. The fact that you can use Uber in most other metropolitan areas of the world, and in St. Charles, Columbia and Kansas City— but not St. Louis and St. Louis County – is wrong.
  • State law and local regulations regarding vehicles for hire are out of date, and need to be revised.
  • The playing field should be even for everyone --- solo cab driver, a cab company, or Uber.
  • Whether cab or Uber, rules must be in place that make the service safe, fair, and reliable.

Here’s what I recommend:

At its July 29, 2015, meeting, the MTC should change its Vehicle for Hire code to accommodate the lawful entry of ride sharing services such as Uber into the St. Louis market. The rules should allow Uber to operate in a safe, reliable manner, without any provisions intended solely to keep Uber out of St. Louis and St. Louis County, or to limit competition.

In support of that recommendation, I will ask the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to review Uber’s own proprietary background check system, and within two weeks to make a recommendation on whether it is adequate. Based upon the chief’s affirmative recommendation, MTC should immediately and provisionally license Uber for operation, based on a certification from the company of a “no-finding” result from their background checks.

On one issue, there is less flexibility. State law currently requires fingerprint background checks for operators of vehicles for hire in St. Louis. When the General Assembly returns in January of 2016, I will work with them to change state law to fully accommodate ride sharing services in St. Louis and St. Louis County— like the rest of the state.

Any new rules put in place should be available to ridesharing companies and cab companies.