It was smooth sailing, relatively speaking.
Starting in late April, ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft will be able to operate legally in the city of Dallas.
The City Council on Wednesday voted 13-2 to overhaul the city’s ordinance for taxicabs, limos and those app-based companies. In doing so, they introduced more competition and brought into the fold some companies that have been functioning without regulation.
The new ordinance ends months of sometimes rancorous debate over how to handle the sweeping technological changes in the industry. Discussion was again a bit tense on Wednesday, even as officials said the rules represented a stakeholder compromise.
Riders in Dallas may not notice all the changes, which go into effect April 30 and cover everything from insurance to fares to vehicle standards.
Dallas has grappled with car-for-hire rules for about a year, after the city tried to crack down on the app-based companies that were operating outside the city’s existing regulations.
An ordinance that would’ve made it much harder for the app-based companies to stay in business in Dallas almost slipped by the council unnoticed. That rewrite was drafted with the help of an attorney for Dallas’ most prominent cab company, Yellow Cab.
But an outcry erupted. City Manager A.C. Gonzalez ultimately apologized for the fiasco. And in the incident’s aftermath, council member Sandy Greyson was tasked with leading an industry study group to update Dallas’ rules.
Officials said the key was developing regulations that, for the most part, treat everyone the same. Though there are some differences for the different modes – and nobody appears to like everything – many said the new rules create more equal competition.
“Competition, my God, it’s the capitalist system,” said Berhane Alemayoh, who represented some limo owners and independent taxi drivers. “We don’t’ say, ‘No Lyft.’ We don’t say, ‘No Uber.’ We want them to compete, but may the best survive.”
Under the new rules, hailable vehicles, such as taxis, will still have maximum rates, while others’ fares will be unregulated. All drivers must get a background check. And vehicles will now undergo a 31-point inspection, rather than having to comply with an age limit.
The ordinance allows for two tiers of commercial insurance: one for when an operator is available to accept riders and another for when they are picking up or carrying riders.
See here and here for the background. Apparently, Dallas is the mirror universe version of San Antonio. I’d love to know the specific differences between Dallas’, Houston’s, and San Antonio’s (proposed) ordinances, since Lyft is apparently happy to operate in the Big D but not here or in San Antonio, while Uber is set to abandon San Antone as well if nothing changes. I have to admit, I’d have expected more uniformity in the various cities’ approaches, but it didn’t work out that way.
Speaking of San Antonio, today is the day that their Council is scheduled to take up vehicles for hire. Proponents of allowing Uber and Lyft to operate, which include District 2 Council Member-elect Alan Warrick, who won’t be seated on Council until next week, and Mayoral candidate Mike Villarreal, would like that vote to be delayed at least until January. (Another Council seat, vacated by Diego Bernal, will be filled at today’s meeting; that person would get to vote on this ordinance if it comes up.) I kind of think that’s the best and most representative course of action at this point, but the ball is in Mayor Ivy Taylor’s court. We’ll see how it goes.
One more thing regarding the Dallas vote:
And it still remains to be seen what will result from the North Central Texas Council of Governments effort to craft a regional car-for-hire policy. That group is largely working off of Dallas’ rules, though some key areas of disagreement remain.
Council member Sheffie Kadane, who’s joined Greyson in meeting with regional officials, said he was confident that “they’ll come along with most everything we’ve done.”
In other words, the rules adopted by Dallas City Council may soon apply to a wider area than just Dallas itself. I wonder if something like that is in the works for the greater Houston area. Unfair Park has more.