German Village Gazette

Vehicles for hire

Columbus safety officials tweak proposed rules

City Council is expected to vote on vehicle-for-hire legislation sometime in the next month

By

The Columbus Department of Public Safety continues to hammer out legislation for peer-to-peer transportation, an emerging app-based vehicle-for-hire service.

At a public hearing May 28 in City Hall -- the second such hearing on the issue -- safety officials tweaked a proposed law that would place restrictions on peer-to-peer businesses, which are currently unregulated.

It's a fairly new way to travel, where people drive their own vehicles and encourage conversation with paying "customers" they drive to a requested location.

Essentially, the city is trying to bring the peer-to-peer companies up to the standards of taxis and livery services by requiring adequate insurance, background checks of drivers, an application to obtain a license and setting standards for vehicle safety.

According to the legislation, taxis and livery services would pay $225 per vehicle per owner for annual licensing fees, where peer-to-peer companies would pay a $15,000 flat fee.

Driver's fees for taxis and livery services, now at $50 each, would be brought down to $35, the current charge for peer-to-peer drivers. All taxis, meanwhile, would have to install credit card machines by the end of June.

Unlike taxis, which can be summoned from the street, peer-to-peer drivers can only be dispatched through a web app.

At present, only two peer-to-peer services are operating in Columbus -- Lyft and UberX, which operates UberX and Uber Black.

The city filed a lawsuit against both companies, seeking a temporary restraining order against them. But a judge denied the city's request for UberX.

A separate lawsuit against Lyft was not pursued by the city attorney after the judge's decision on UberX. So the city is seeking a permanent injunction against those businesses.

However, if legislation is passed by council, those lawsuits likely will be dismissed, City Attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr. said.

Mostly supporters -- customers, drivers and company officials -- of Uber and Lyft spoke at the public hearing, held by Councilman Zach Klein.

Annette Lutz, who's blind and unable to use bus services for short trips, said Lyft has been a savior in those situations. She said her experience with Columbus cab companies is that they are unreliable, generally showing up late.

A Lyft driver recently took Lutz and her daughter out for ice cream, she said.

"In the past it would have been a several-hour event," she said.

But not everyone was so enthusiastic about the presence of the peer-to-peer operators in the city.

Taxi drivers asked for an independent audit of vehicle-for-hire operators to see if a moratorium might be in order.

"I do not align myself with the startup tactics nor the danger the peer-to-peer transportation companies have included Columbus in as their popularity has spanned the country," said Morgan Kauffman, owner of Yellow Cab of Columbus.

Yellow Cabs now include safety cameras, app-driven hails and G-Force Performance Monitoring, which notifies central dispatching on sudden acceleration, stops or hard turns.

"We have invested heavily in the safety of our passengers and taxis," Kauffman said.

City Council is expected to vote on the vehicle-for-hire legislation sometime in the next month, council spokesman John Ivanic said.

Klein said he believes a lot of progress has been made on the issue.

Comments