Uber management sent a letter to Mayor Ivy Taylor and City Council Wednesday, warning that the rideshare service will leave San Antonio on March 1 unless the recently-passed existing is modified or repealed.
Uber representatives say the new ordinances raises “substantial barriers” to ridehsare companies operating in the city. The ordinance was aggressively pushed by the local taxi industry and former Police Chief William McManus.
Mayor Taylor and Councilmember Rebecca Viagran (D3), chair of the City’s Public Safety Committee, which studied the issue and recommended the restrictive measure while praising the local taxi industry, led Council in approving the ordinance. Mayor Taylor and some of the council members who supported the new ordinance have acknowledged that they have never personally experienced the rideshare service and refuse to do so.
“After much consideration, it is clear that these regulations will cripple Uber’s ability to serve drivers and riders in San Antonio. A vote in support of these regulations was a vote against ridesharing, and if the rules remain unchanged, Uber will have no choice but to leave San Antonio,” stated Chris Nakutis, general manager for Uber Texas in the letter sent out early Wednesday evening. “We respectfully ask the city to repeal these burdensome requirements and replace them with smart regulations, like those adopted by Austin, that protect public safety while at the same time fostering technological innovations that enhance transportation options and economic development for the city.”
See here, here, and here for the background on San Antonio. Gotta say, whatever you think of Uber, it might have been better for Council to have put this issue off until after the May election, since at least two of the Mayoral candidates – Mike Villarreal and Leticia Van de Putte – supported having Uber and Lyft in town, and likely would have taken a different approach to crafting the ordinance. They both supported delaying the decision as well. (I don’t know where Tommy Adkisson stands on vehicles for hire; all this happened before he formally announced his candidacy.) That said, both companies did their usual operate-as-if-they-had-approval-even-though-they-didn’t thing, and were frequently crosswise with SAPD Chief William McManus, who served on the committee that wrote the revised ordinance and appeared to be a taxi sympathizer. One could easily argue that this was their own arrogance coming back to bite them in the rear fender.
As for Lyft, it hasn’t committed to a course of action yet.
Rideshare representatives agree with checks and inspections, but not to the degree that the local ordinance demands. They also point to the insurance grey area when the app is turned on a car, but has not been assigned to pick up a customer. New products such as the one offered by USAA in Colorado offer an alternative to rideshare company insurance covering that grey area.
“Expensive fees, excessive insurance regulations, and burdensome processes do not enhance public safety; they will eliminate a safe transportation option,” Nakutis stated.
Lyft representatives did not go so far as to say they would cease operation in San Antonio.
“We hope the City Council will revisit these regulations and allow Lyft drivers to continue providing safe, affordable, and friendly rides to people in San Antonio. Unfortunately, without any changes to the law before the March 1st date of compliance, it will be extremely difficult for our peer-to-peer model to operate in the city,” stated Lyft spokesperson Chelsea Wilson in an email.
See here for more on the USA offering. I wonder if both companies leave if the ordinance will be reconsidered under the next Mayor. Maybe, maybe not, but I wouldn’t be surprised.