Five things you need to know about the city’s new proposed Uber regulations
The city just released a report outlining how—subject to city council approval—it plans to clear the way for legalizing UberX. For those who’d rather not wade through 66 solid pages of bureaucratese, here are the five things to know:
1. Uber fares might increase a bit
The city is making a rather ballsy attempt to capture a portion of Uber’s revenues for public use. Assuming city council approves everything as written (and assuming Uber doesn’t immediately challenge the amended bylaw in court), Uber will begin paying a “licensing fee” of 20 cents per trip—and that’s on top of a $20,000 “application fee” and a $10-per-driver “license issuance fee.” The city is predicting that this new fee structure will bring in almost $3.5 million in the first year. (By way of comparison, the city expects to make $9.1 million in taxi fees during the same period. Uber alone would be paying more than a quarter of the city’s car-for-hire licensing fees.)
2. Your Uber driver will be a little safer—or, at least, better insured
The proposed new rules would forbid UberX drivers from using their personal car insurance. The city would require each vehicle to carry at least $2 million worth of collision and passenger hazard insurance, just like a taxi. And riders would no longer have to take Uber at its word when it says it screens all of its drivers. The city would require the company to hand over the results of its background checks. (Meanwhile, the city would continue conducting its own background checks on cabbies.)
3. Suing Uber might become a little easier
Want to file a lawsuit against Uber because it injured you or screwed you out of money in some way? Great! Currently, all you have to do is initiate a mandatory 60-day mediation process, then fly to Amsterdam and present your grievance to an arbitrator—not a judge or jury—who will decide the case “in accordance with the laws of The Netherlands.” It’s all in Uber’s Terms and Conditions! You read them before clicking “I Agree,” didn’t you?
Under the city’s proposal, Uber would have to get rid of that arbitration clause. But given Uber’s track record of ignoring legislation it doesn’t like, it’s anyone’s guess whether the city has enough clout to make this stick.
4. The city is giving taxi people some goodies—and letting them lower prices
Remember when the city spent several years controversially revamping its whole system of taxi licensing? You might as well forget that entire saga. In an apparent attempt to mollify cabbies and plate owners, city staffers are recommending that council eliminate a lot of the taxi regulations they voted into existence in February 2014.
The new rules proposed today would do away with the requirement that some classes of plate owners actually drive their cabs for at least part of the day. Instead, they’d be able to kick back and rent out their cars to third-party drivers. The proposed rules would also get rid of some of the obstacles to becoming a cabbie, like mandatory CPR lessons.
Taxi brokerages will even be able to lower their rates on demand—something they’re currently prohibited from doing. In theory, this could help them compete with Uber.
5. Riders with mobility issues should see some short-term benefits
When council rolled out its taxi reforms back in 2014, one of its objectives was to create a completely wheelchair-accessible taxi fleet. The new recommendations appear to backtrack on that goal. The proposed new rules would no longer automatically shift the entire taxi fleet toward accessibility, instead allowing existing plate holders—whom the city may feel a need to placate after months of Uber-related protests—to put off investing in accessibility for the foreseeable future.
The new rules attempt to make up for the loss, though. The city would immediately begin issuing as many as 1,000 extra taxi licenses to people who agree to operate accessible cabs. Plus, Uber would be required to step up its accessible offerings.