Drivers working for app-based ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft would have to be licensed by the city under proposed regulations. Columbus officials sped up proposed regulations for the ride-sharing companies amid outcry from the taxi industry and as governments nationwide deal with the new form of transportation. The rules would be subject to the city council's approval.
Drivers working for app-based ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft would have to be licensed by the city under proposed regulations.
Columbus officials sped up proposed regulations for the ride-sharing companies amid outcry from the taxi industry and as governments nationwide deal with the new form of transportation. The rules would be subject to the city council’s approval.
“Obviously, they wouldn’t come to Columbus if people didn’t want it,” said Amanda Ford, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety.
Uber and Lyft launched their smartphone apps in Columbus last month, but Ford said the services are illegal until rules are in place.
Drivers use personal vehicles and log on to the app to troll for fares during a shift. Passengers use the app to request rides and pay through their phones using a credit card.
A public hearing on the draft rules is scheduled for 5 p.m. today in council chambers. The proposal includes requirements for insurance, licensing and background checks on drivers.
The companies would have to maintain at least $1 million of commercial liability coverage and cover drivers who lack adequate insurance of their own.
Uber Ohio general manager James Ondrey said that mirrors what the company already is doing.
Columbus taxi and livery companies are required to carry $300,000 and $500,000, respectively, in commercial liability coverage for their drivers, the city said.
Ford said drivers also would have to provide a letter showing proof of personal insurance and that their insurer knows the driver is working for a ride-sharing company.
“If their insurance company chooses not to cover them, that’s something they have to deal with,” Ford said.
That still leaves potential insurance gaps, said Dan Kelso, president of the Ohio Insurance Institute. Liability coverage generally kicks in only if the driver causes damage to another person, and doesn’t cover the driver’s vehicle.
Drivers would have to pay a $25 annual license fee and provide copies of background checks, driver records and vehicle inspections. Each company would have to pay a $500 annual license fee, as well. The city also wouldn’t license drivers younger than 21.
The rules also would prohibit drivers from soliciting customers on the street.
Columbus’ proposal is similar to one adopted in California, where state officials agreed to license the companies and require background checks, vehicle inspections and insurance coverage while drivers are working.
Columbus taxi drivers and owners have opposed the ride-sharing companies, saying they will eat into a limited profit pool and that they jumped into the city before rules could be written.
“Columbus is rolling over,” said John Mazza, a lawyer representing independent taxis. “We want to license these people when they totally disregard our city laws? That’s a sad state of affairs."
Ondrey said the decision to launch Uber before the regulations could be completed was related to “pent-up demand and how much it was being requested.”
Taxi drivers said at a Vehicle for Hire Board meeting yesterday that the city should take more time to develop the regulations, not rush them because the ride-sharing companies already are operating.
“This is coming directly out of our pocket,” said David Herring, operations manager of Acme Taxi. “You’re giving them an open door to take money from us.”