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Home | Tag Archives: uber

Tag Archives: uber

Biggest Transportation Battles of 2016 to Continue in the New Year

After Uber left Austin, state lawmakers are now poised to take up regulations of ride-hailing companies. They may also look at a high-speed rail developer’s ability to use eminent domain for a Dallas-Houston bullet train.

The cost of toll roads, the toll of urban congestion, ride-hailing battles and a high-speed train war garnered plenty of attention in Texas this year. And after the Legislature spent two sessions focusing on highway funding, lawmakers now appear poised to tackle other transportation matters next year. Here’s a look at the year’s biggest transportation stories and how they may continue to unfold in the coming months:

1. Uber and Lyft roll out of Austin after losing city election

National ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft stopped operating in Austin after voters there rejected an ordinance that would have repealed certain regulations, including the requirement that drivers submit fingerprints for background checks. Several new transportation networking companies entered the Austin market in response.

Uber said in November that it would like to renegotiate regulations with the Austin City Council. Meanwhile, Uber continues operating in Houston, which also requires fingerprint-based background checks. But the issue of ride-hailing regulations appears headed to the Legislature, meaning state lawmakers could do what Austin voters refused to do: override city regulations of the companies.

2. Houston METRO bucks trends of falling bus ridership after route overhaul

The state’s major transit agencies are eyeing changes to their bus operations after Houston METRO overhauled its local routes and schedules and saw an increase in ridership. Austin’s Capital Metro board is slated to vote on an overhaul plan next year. The Dallas City Council directed Dallas Area Rapid Transit to make a bus overhaul there a priority over a new suburban rail line and installed a transit advocate on the board late this year. San Antonio’s VIA Metropolitan Transit, meanwhile, is studying such an overhaul. None of the ones planned, though, would be rolled out overnight like Houston METRO’s changes were.

3. Disdain for toll roads continued, but that won’t be enough to get rid of them

The operators of a 41-mile, tolled stretch of State Highway 130 filed for bankruptcy after lower-than-expected traffic spurred shortfalls in revenue. And the Texas Department of Transportation calculated that it would cost $36.7 billion to pay off construction debt on the state’s network of toll roads, drawing the ire of state lawmakers.

Meanwhile, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings asked that TxDOT complete a comprehensive analysis of what would happen to downtown traffic if the city built the controversial Trinity Parkway toll road. And after Donald Trump won the November presidential election, many Texans feared the real estate mogul’s infrastructure spending plan (which still lacks key details) could lead to more toll projects in the Lone Star state.

4. With billions in new funds, TxDOT identifies key urban highway projects

After Gov. Greg Abbott campaigned on cutting urban congestion, TxDOT this year started directing billions to highway projects in the state’s biggest cities. The Texas Transportation Commission, which oversees the transportation agency, approved $1.3 billion worth of projects in January. That included improvements to Interstate 35 in Austin, I-35E in Dallas, Interstate 820 in Fort Worth, Interstate 69 in Houston and U.S. Highway 281 in San Antonio. Money for the projects is coming from funds that voters agreed to send to TxDOT for highway construction and maintenance in two separate elections approving amendments to the Texas Constitution.

5. Both sides in bullet train fight prepping for pivotal 2017

A private company’s plans to build a bullet train between Dallas and Houston continued drawing ire from rural Texans, who are fiercely opposed to Texas Central being able to use eminent domain to take needed land for the project. Grimes County officials added bureaucratic requirements, though company officials said the new permitting rules wouldn’t dramatically hinder the project. But both supporters and opponents appeared to spend the year gearing up for a bigger showdown: the 2017 legislative session. Opponents have said for months they intend to try to get legislation to Abbott’s desk blocking the project next year. And Texas Central in December encouraged Texans to write their legislators in support of the plan.

Read more year-in-review stories here.

Disclosure: Capitol Metro, VIA Metropolitan Transit, Uber, Lyft and Texas Central Partners have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Author:  BRANDON FORMBY – The Texas Tribune

Council Green Lights New Rules for Public Transportation Services in El Paso

El Paso City Council approved a new set of inventive regulations that will enhance public transportation services for the El Paso community.

The Transportation-for-Hire ordinance amendments are inclusive of taxicabs, limousines, pedicabs, sightseeing and charter vehicles, low speed vehicles and transportation network companies (UberX, Lyft, etc.). Some of the  changes include background checks for all drivers, vehicle quality standards, and free market published rates rather than prescribed minimum/maximum rates to name a few.

For more information on the newly adopted changes, please see the information provided below.

What are the key provisions to the Transportation-for-Hire ordinance?

  • All business models require an Operating Authority Permit
  • All drivers or operators of a mode of transportation must pass a background check
  • Vehicles must comply with State registration/inspection requirements
  • Service rules require city wide service, prohibit discrimination, and require wheelchair accessible vehicle be dispatched on request
  • Free market published rates rather than prescribed minimum/maximum rates, for all modes
  • Airport operation continue to require separate permits for taxicab, shuttle and limo zone/areas

What is Transportation-for-hire?

Transportation-for-hire is a vehicle used for the provision of transportation services to the general public in exchange for compensation.  Taxicabs, limousines, pedicabs, sightseeing and charter vehicles, low speed vehicles and transportation network companies (Uber, Lyft, etc.) are all different kinds of Transportation-for-hire.

What is a Transportation Network Company?

Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) are those that provide prearranged transportation services for compensation using an internet-enabled application or digital platform to connect passengers with drivers that use their personal vehicles to provide vehicle-for-hire services.

Why did the City change the ordinance?

The City approved new regulations to protect public safety and improve customer service by expanding and updating existing regulations to allow innovative new transportation services to operate in El Paso.

What are the public safety requirements and operating requirements for Operating Authorities permitees?

The following are the minimum operating requirements for all vehicle-for-hire operators and/or drivers:

  • Criminal background checks
  • Vehicle quality standards
  • Commercial automobile liability insurance
  • Fare certainty

When will the ordinance be effective? 

Six-month grace period from date of adoption for full compliance.

Will be required to carry commercial insurance?

Yes.  In accordance with State law requirements.

Did the ordinance cap the total number of Transportation vehicles or drivers?

No, there is no cap on the number participants.

Where will TNC’s pick up fares at the airport?

There will be a designated space (with signage) along the center median for TNC pickup- no dwelling at curbside will be allowed.

Where will the TNC staging area be located?

The airport will have staging for five TNC vehicles in marked spaces at the cell phone lot.

Will TNC drivers be allowed in the terminal?

TNC drivers will not be allowed inside the terminal. Passenger pickups will take place in the designated TNC space in the median.


Across Texas, Uber Puts Cities in Tough Spot

As Uber attempts to leverage its fast-growing popularity and bend cities to its will, three Texas cities face serious questions this week about their willingness to accommodate the app-based vehicle-for-hire company by changing local laws.

Citing “burdensome regulations,” Uber ended service in Midland and Galveston on Monday. On Tuesday, Austin city officials debated how to move forward after a political action committee — largely funded by Uber and its top competitor, Lyft — submitted enough voter signatures to challenge a new ordinance the companies have argued will force them to leave that city as well.

Uber has grown exponentially in cities across Texas over the last year, prompting local officials to draft regulations on the company’s drivers similar to those already in place for local taxis. Both Uber and Lyft have repeatedly pushed back, threatening to leave cities that do not loosen up on rules for vehicle-for-hire companies.

During a meeting Tuesday, the city of Austin validated more than 25,000 signatures on a petition to overturn an ordinance passed in December that would require drivers for both Uber and Lyft to pass fingerprint-based background checks. Both companies have threatened to pull out of Austin unless the ordinance is repealed, arguing that its own background checks are sufficient and that asking its drivers to get fingerprinted is overly burdensome.

With the signatures validated, the Austin City Council must either adopt the less-restrictive ordinance outlined in the petition or put the issue to voters. Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the council will hear public testimony on the issue during its meeting Thursday but will not vote until Feb. 11.

“I don’t like the position that we’re in,” Adler said, citing concerns that the council will be forced to choose one of two options instead of finding an “innovative” solution to the problem.

Councilwoman Delia Garza said she did not want the council to accept the less-restrictive ordinance on Ridesharing Works for Austin’s petition, citing concerns that signatures were collected with signers being told, “your city council is trying to ban Uber.”

“I have to speak to the broader issue of this company steamrolling through local cities and governments,” Garza said. “This has been a huge distraction, and I think we can do the easy thing or we can do the right thing. I think the right thing is to let the voters decide.”

Uber’s position in Austin is at odds with its policy in Houston, where vehicle-for-hire drivers must undergo a mandatory fingerprint-based background check. While Lyft withdrew from Houston largely over that issue, Uber has continued to operate.

Sarfraz Maredia, Uber’s general manager over Houston, declined to say Tuesday why the company wouldn’t accept the same policy in Austin.

“It has become clear that Houston is the outlier in how it has chosen to regulate,” Maredia said. “The rest of our markets have focused on passing modern ride-sharing regulations. As a result, our expansion strategy in Texas has changed to focus on launching only in markets that are consistent with that policy.”

While Uber’s fate in Austin remains in limbo, the company was more firm with Galveston and Midland. On Monday, Uber abruptly ceased services in both cities, citing regulations passed by the cities’ councils. Maredia said the company had collectively signed up about 1,000 active drivers in the two cities over the last year. Lyft does not currently operate in either city.

Midland officials, in particular, were baffled by Uber’s decision. Sara Bustilloz, a city spokeswoman, said Midland’s City Council passed an ordinance for vehicle-for-hire app drivers in December but agreed to make significant changes after Uber contacted them with a list of conditions for staying in the city.

In addition to asking for the ability to pick up passengers from the airport, Bustilloz said Uber wanted, “to create a streamlined process for licensing drivers because they didn’t want their drivers to have to come to our police department to get a license. They also wanted to eliminate the need for a secondary background check by our police department.” 

The council met all of Uber’s requests and allowed the company to send a master list of driver information to use for licensing, a process that Bustilloz said, “comes down to emailing an Excel spreadsheet.”

“They have since indicated that that’s the part of the ordinance they don’t like, and they requested it,” Bustilloz said. “So we’re a little confused as far as that goes. If they’re going to say something will work for them and then later say it doesn’t, that makes it hard.”

People in Midland who attempt to use the Uber app are now shown a message from the company criticizing the city council. The message, as displayed in a screenshot sent to The Texas Tribune by Bustilloz, says the company hopes to return to the city “under more modern regulations in the future.”

Bustilloz said the city is confused about Uber’s motivations, considering the compromises they made on their ordinances, and is unsure of its next steps. 

“We do not have anything in our ordinance that another city does not have,” she said. “If they’re able to operate in Dallas and Houston, I don’t see why they can’t operate here or why our ordinance isn’t good enough.”

The company pulled its operations from Galveston days after its city council passed an ordinance calling for Uber drivers to apply for chauffeurs’ licenses, as well as requiring vehicle-for-hire app firms themselves to apply for operators’ licenses. 

“More recently, we’ve seen Galveston pass regulations that are clear outliers from the national consensus,” Maredia said, again citing Uber’s new strategy to focus on cities that, “embrace the benefits of ride-sharing rather than rules that are protecting outdated, taxi-like regulations.” 

Galveston officials did not return requests for comment Tuesday. 

Disclosure: Uber and Lyft are corporate sponsors of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Author:  – The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues

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