Local taxi drivers complain about Uber to city council
The new ride-sharing app Uber is rapidly growing, and it recently began to offer rides right here in San Luis County and in Paso Robles. The app allows riders to sign up for the service, call for drivers, and pay online; no cash handling involved, with both parties signing up through the Uber website or app on their phone. Drivers are not licensed taxi drivers, as it is considered a ride-sharing service.
At Tuesday night’s Paso Robles City Council meeting, taxi cab company owners and taxi drivers came before the council to collectively ask, “Is Uber exempt from the city’s laws?”
Justin Harmon of the taxi cab company Fetch got up to speak on the issue, saying that the ride-sharing app is clearly a taxi service, and as thus should comply to the same laws and restrictions that other local taxi companies do. “There is an issue of public safety,” he said. “Our riders are insured, we perform thorough background checks and drug testing; there is accountability,” he said.
Traditional taxi cab companies have to comply with laws and apply for permits. Hamon said the permit process isn’t easy; it’s a lengthy and expensive process. But has Uber found a loophole? Maybe so, according to Police Chief Robert Burton.
“Harmon brought this to us last week, so we are having staff review it and review the laws,” Burton said. “It’s not a black and white issue; it’s so new.”
“We invite competition, but we want an even playing field,” said taxi driver Douglas Shelby. “Portland has outlawed it, so has Las Vegas and other cities. It’s up to the city, it’s not a state thing. We can decide as a city if it’s something we want here,” he said.
Before any degree of action can be taken, it first needs to be determined if Uber is actually breaking any laws. “I’m not going to have my officers start pulling over Uber drivers and infringing on their rights,” said Burton.
Dan Indendi, owner of local taxi service A Ride Awaits also voiced concerns. He said he either wants them to comply with local taxi rules or ban them from the city.
The council agreed to place the topic onto a future agenda. Councilman Fred Strong requested a report be brought before the council prepared by the city manager and the police department. Councilmen Steve Gregory and John Hamon agreed that the topic needs addressing, “When the public comes up like this with concerns, they need to be addressed,” Hamon said.