There are multiple issues to be resolved.
Uber and Lyft representatives are cautiously optimistic about what will come out of the small group of City officials that continue to work on a rideshare ordinance that softens the regulatory blow to rideshare companies and their drivers. The revised ordinance is expected to be discussed in a closed, executive session after Wednesday’s B Session. It could come before the council for a vote as early as Thursday, Feb. 26.
Councilmember Roberto Treviño (D1) also sounds optimistic that a regulatory compromise can be reached before the ordinance approved by City Council in December goes into effect on March 1.
“The conversation has been very positive,” Treviño said. “The tone is one of collaboration.”
Rideshare companies object to the insurance terms imposed on them versus levels paid by taxi company owners. Yet there are other less publicized issues with the ordinance, ranging from the requirement that drivers have fire-extinguisher to submitting to a drug test – as taxi drivers do. Secondary issues could lead both companies to pull out of San Antonio.
“We are also deeply concerned about the entire driver on-boarding process that is created through this ordinance – the fingerprint, drug test, fire extinguisher, fees and ASE mechanic inspection requirements,” stated Lyft Public Policy Manager April Mims in an email. “Safety is Lyft’s top priority, but a taxi ordinance, which is what San Antonio passed, is not the way to regulate transportation network (rideshare) companies. Cities like Austin, Dallas, Cincinnati and Tulsa have demonstrated how to ensure public safety and welcome new transportation platforms.”
The approved ordinance requires transportation network companies (TNCs) like Lyft and Uber to have $1 million insurance policies per vehicle for passenger injury – an amount they were providing before the ordinance was passed. Traditional taxi companies like Yellow Cab only need $30,000 policies. The ordinance also requires TNCs to cover insurance even when drivers have not accepted a fare or picked up a driver, which TNCs cite as unnecessary.
See here for the background, here for Lyft’s specific points of contention, and here for a comparison chart of rules for different forms of vehicle for hire. Honestly, the place to start here is with the ordinances that other cities have adopted. It’s been clear since the ordinance passed and the two companies announced their intent to leave that the public wanted this fixed. It shouldn’t be that hard to do. In the meantime, as things get sorted out, there will be a slight delay in the implementation of the ordinance.
Rideshare companies and supporters will receive a five-day grace period beginning March 1, the date the ordinance was supposed to take effect, while Mayor Ivy Taylor, members of City Council, and staff finalize a revised ordinance that will ease the regulatory burden on transportation network companies.
“We’ve been having some meetings and talking about some of the requirements,” Mayor Taylor said. “We want to stay flexible, but still stay true to our original focus of public safety.”
Mayor Taylor released a statement Tuesday afternoon that outlines what she and the City’s working group sees as areas that the ordinance can be adjusted. At the top of that list is the “gap period” insurance requirement. The gap occurs when the mobile application is turned on by the driver, signaling availability to nearby customers seeking a ride, and when the driver actually accepts a fare-paying passenger. Under the ordinance, TNCs are required to maintain excess coverage of $200,000 even though they are passenger-free.
Click here to download Mayor Taylor’s statement.
“At this time, it is not feasible to implement the insurance standards specified in the existing ordinance because products that provide drivers with the required ‘gap’ coverage are not yet available in Texas,” Taylor stated. “I will ask my City Council colleagues to revisit the insurance requirements and delay the applicability of the gap coverage requirement until a conforming insurance product is available or the Texas Legislature takes action to set a statewide standard, whichever comes first.”
Among other things, this pushes back the date for any consideration of revising the ordinance until March 5. I suspect there will be some heavy conversations with the TNCs and with Council members between now and then. I’ll be very interested to see what comes out of all that.