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Vehicles for hire update moves forward in San Antonio

Back on track after a late summer hiatus.

Uber

Yet another meeting has been scheduled to discuss controversial new rules that would allow rideshare companies to operate in San Antonio. The City Council’s Public Safety Committee voted Wednesday to take up the issue with the full City Council during B Session on Dec. 3

Council members requested that the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) come to that meeting prepared to clarify the insurance policy requirements the rideshare, or transportation network company (TNC), ordinance would include. TNCs connect customers to drivers, who drive their personal vehicles, via a mobile application to pick up fares.

The insurance “grey area” appears when rideshare drivers have switched on the application that makes them ready to acquire rides but are still waiting to accept a fare through the app. If an accident were to happen during those idling moments, or even hours, which insurance policy would be responsible their personal insurance or the commercial insurance provided by the TNC? City Council will find out next month.

Lyft

If approved, City staff recommendations would amend the Vehicle for Hire Ordinance to include exceptions and special requirements for TNCs. A task force composed of industry and community stakeholders also issued recommendations that were, for the most part, less stringent than what staff proposed.

Each council member on the Committee – chaired by District 3 Councilmember Rebecca Viagran and including District 5 Councilmember Shirley Gonzales, District 6 Councilmember Ray Lopez, District 7 Councilmember Cris Medina, and District 10 Councilmember Mike Gallagher – expressed disappointment in Lyft and Uber for disobeying the SAPD’s cease and desist letters. Both services continue to operate in San Antonio. The strongest words came from Lopez. Today’s meeting was his first back on the Committee after a hiatus.

“I’m incredibly disgusted with the approach that was taken by the (rideshare) industry to come into San Antonio,” he said. “They came in here with complete disregard for the rules and regulations that we had in place.”

Lyft and Uber have entered markets across the nation with the same strategy: begin operating, gain an employee and customer base, work with city and state governments to create new rules for rideshare.

Lyft Public Policy Manager April Mims, who is also on the task force, said that Lyft will continue to operate in San Antonio. It’s expected that Uber will as well.

“Our plan is to continue to operate and continue to work with elected officials,” Mims said. “As we understand it right now, our policy team has thoroughly looked at the regulations in Chapter 33, and we believe that there are no regulations in place right now that currently (address) this unique business model.”

See here for the last update. The process in San Antonio has been every bit as intense and controversial as it was in Houston, including the issue of Uber and Lyft operating in the absence of official approval. It will be interesting to see how similar San Antonio’s ordinance winds up being to Houston’s. For what it’s worth, that R Street report on municipal amenity towards the likes of Uber and Lyft gave San Antonio (D+) a lower grade than Houston (C-). We’ll see if they see fit to amend that after December 3.

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