Full City Council Takes First Swing at Transportation-for-Hire Ordinance

Many Lyft cars can be identified by their pink mustaches.
Many Lyft cars can be identified by their pink mustaches.

Back from its July recess, a divided Dallas City Council took up work again on a package of regulations for cabs and ride-sharing services that aims to bring the city up to date with the changing transportation landscape. Wednesday's hearing was one more step toward a final vote on the new rules, intended to take place in September, barring any roadblocks.

Meet the roadblocks: council members Dwaine Caraway and Tennell Atkins. Atkins said he was worried that the tougher car inspection requirements proposed by the ordinance would lead to worse transportation-for-hire cars being on the road, while Caraway provided an unconfirmed anecdote about a slow Uber pickup and regaled the room with tales of his Uncle Johnny's limo-driving career. Caraway also took the opportunity to complain that none of the 30-plus D-Link buses currently in operation make the trip to South Dallas. That's likely, since the buses are on a fixed route that serves Dallas' centrally located entertainment districts.

Philip Kingston offered a clearer set of concerns. He's worried that the regulations are too tailored to the services that exist now and will limit coming breakthroughs from new ride-sharing services.

Mayor Mike Rawlings seemed to support the proposed ordinance, stressing that the city needed to respond to innovations to keep up.

"The marketplace is changing, not only in transportation," he said. "We've got to be in a place where we let the market speak to us."

Under the proposed ordinance, all of the services would be treated the same. Car requirements -- which would change from an age-based model to an inspection-based model -- would be the same. Rate caps would be the same for all services as would most pickup-area requirements. Any transportation-for-hire vehicle that has a motor would be required to pick up any person within the Dallas city limits. Drivers could use a single license across multiple services and would all be subject to the same background, driving record and drug checks.

See also: Dallas' Unfair Fight to Crush Uber

The briefing marks the culmination of a process that began when a package of regulations that would have essentially outlawed Lyft and Uber was placed on the council's consent agenda last August. Council members Kingston and Scott Griggs noticed the item and succeeded in launching an investigation into how the regulations -- which Yellow Cab helped draft -- made their way onto the consent agenda and why Dallas vice cops had been writing Uber drivers tickets.

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