REV Houston revisited

REV Houston is back in the news.

The drivers of Rev Houston’s green-and-white shuttles zip through downtown picking up and dropping off passengers for tips. Here’s a tip from city officials: Follow the rules.

To Rev Houston owner Erik Ibarra, his three-vehicle electric fleet — think stretch golf carts — is a carbon-free way to move people around downtown. To city officials, however, Rev Houston is an outlaw company, skirting ordinances to make a buck.

City officers have ticketed Rev Houston drivers at least 15 times this year, and plenty more last year. The citations, which average $150 to $200, are for offenses such as “no taxicab permit” and “no taxicab driver’s license.”

“One of the offenses is ‘no fire extinguisher,’ ” Ibarra said. “Our vehicles don’t have a single drop of combustible liquid, but the city feels we need to have a fire extinguisher. ‘No taxi meter’ is another one. We don’t charge a fare, so why should we have a taxi meter?”

Tina Paez, the city’s deputy director of administration and regulatory affairs, said Ibarra’s vehicles have been cited as taxis because they take passengers.

“If they charge a fare or accept a gratuity, they are a vehicle for hire,” she said. “Even though they don’t technically charge, they come under the ordinance.”

I blogged about them in September, and the issues haven’t changed much since then. I think it’s clear these guys are a breed apart from taxicabs, and I think the city needs to consider addressing them as such. Some regulation is certainly required – ensuring they have adequate insurance, making sure the drivers receive safety training and certification, that sort of thing – but given that their domain is limited to downtown and parts of Midtown, it doesn’t make sense to regulate them like cabs. If they go beyond that area, then they can and should be re-evaluated – a well-written new ordinance can handle that. In the meantime, there has to be a better approach than this.

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