Editors Note: What do you think of the Houston City Council vote? Are they protecting citizens? or shutting out new businesses?
It took 16 months, but Houston officials Wednesday finally found acceptable regulations to corral the changing paid ride industry.
By a 10-5 vote, with two council members absent, City Council approved new paid ride rules, amending the existing Chapter 46 that covers everything from taxis and limos to jitneys and airport shuttles. The changes open up Houston, legally, to new entrants like Uber and Lyft that use smartphone apps to connect willing drivers with interested riders, using the driver’s personal car.
Taxi companies vigorously opposed much of the proposal.
A nearly five-hour discussion Wednesday focused largely on numerous amendments offered by council members, most focused on protecting consumers, treating established industry fairly and ensuring fair access for the disabled.
Council members Jerry Davis, Mike Laster, C.O. Bradford, Michael Kubosh and Jack Christie.
In the end, most of the debate boiled down to insurance, and when exactly the vehicle should be covered by commercial rather than personal insurance. Councilman David Martin, an opponent who left before the vote, said the new rules “put the public in danger by not having a full scope of insurance put forward to protect them.”
Others disagreed, noting the companies must have insurance that kicks in any moment the driver is engaging in commercial business.
Council members who balked at the changes also said they set an unfair standard that treated the new companies and cabs differently.
Houston, as a story Wednesday noted, is wading into vague territory, where many cities and states find themselves sorting out the balance of encouraging new business models, supporting free markets, and establishing safe commercial passenger safety standards and a fair business climate.