By Jack Turman, Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 2, 2014
The Ann Arbor City Council is working to keep up with the increasingly popular rideshare companies Uber and Lyft, revisiting the issue of their operational status Tuesday night as a wealth of potential rideshare clients, University students, settled into campus.
Following the defeat of aproposed ordinance last month to increase regulations on taxi services that was targeted at ride-sharing services, the council passed a resolution requesting the City Administrator Steve Powers negotiate operating agreements with ridesharing companies. Councilmembers Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1), Sally Hart Petersen (D–Ward 2) and Christopher Taylor (D–Ward 3) sponsored the resolution.
The parameters for ride-sharing companies, which operate using non-professional drivers, include a minimum of $1 million dollars in liability insurance if operating in Ann Arbor and required driver background checks for drivers. Much of the resolution's language was derived from a discussion at last month’s meeting.
According to the Uber website, Uber currently provides a commercial liability insurance, background checks and cashless checks to ensure physical and financial security. However, taxi drivers and companies are enraged that ride-sharing company drivers are not required to have a chauffeur’s license and a commercial vehicle plate, along with not complying with Michigan Limousine Transportation Act.
A number of citizens at the council meeting Tuesday night testified in favor of regulation argued that competition between taxi companies and ride-sharing companies isunfair, with ride-sharing companies having less defined liabilities and fewer constraints. Ride-sharing companies, such as Uber, use a smartphone app to connect drivers and riders. In contrast, those opposed to regulation argued that ride-sharing companies provide better public safety policies than taxi companies.
Peterson said the evolving world of technology helps increase the competition between ride-sharing companies and taxi companies.
“I think Ann Arbor has to keep up with the times,” Peterson said. “We want to be a technology town. We want to be innovative. We’ve got to keep up with it.”
Peterson added that the Taxicab Board needs to make more changes, but are headed in the right direction.
“I think it is time for the taxi cab board to reevaluate their regulations,” Peterson said. “I do agree that deregulating the fares is a step in the right direction.”
Councilmember Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3) said he disagrees with the resolution because Uber does not have to comply with the Michigan Limousine Transportation Act.
“What this resolution does though is create what I perceive as an undercutting of city attorney’s authority,” Kunselman said.
Uber Michigan Manager Michael White said in an interview with the Daily that Uber brings economic opportunities and a new way for people to get around Ann Arbor safely. Simultaneously, White said Uber also brings competition within this industry to Ann Arbor.
“People can feel threatened by competition,” White said. “I think that’s what we heard about today.”