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
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hire are out of date, and need to be revised.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.