The city of Dallas doesn't buy Uber's oft-repeated claim that it's simply a technology company. Its lawyers made this perfectly clear to the company 10 months ago, when they warned the California-based purveyor of private driver apps to get taxi permits or shut down.
Uber has done neither of those things, which isn't terribly surprising, given the company's penchant for disruption, both of the taxi/limo business and the local governments that regulate them. Before arriving in Dallas, it had already locked horns with officials in San Francisco, Washington D.C., and Chicago. Besides, Uber looked at Dallas' ordinances regulating taxicab and limousine services and declared itself "completely legal."
The city has responded with a mild crackdown. They ticketed Uber for advertising a transportation-for-hire business without a license and gave 61 citations to 31 drivers "found to be driving for an unauthorized service," according to a memo sent to the City Council last week by Assistant City Manager Joey Zapata.
The city, however, doesn't seem entirely confident of its legal footing. Zapata is proposing a tweak to the city's transportation rules clarifying that Uber's service is, in fact illegal. The proposed regulation would:
(1)clarify that a person must have operating authority to dispatch a limousine for hire; (2)clarify that a limousine driver may only respond to dispatches from a holder employing or contracting with the driver; (3) require luxury sedans, trucks, sports-utility vehicles, and vans used as limousines to have sticker prices over $45,000 when purchased new, with certain exceptions; (4)prohibit advertising the operation of a limousine service that does not have valid operating authority when the advertisement is reasonably calculated to be heard by persons seeking such service; (5)require limousine service to be prearranged at least 30 minutes before the service is provided; (6)clarify that the use of any type of meter or measuring device in determining the fare for limousine service is prohibited regardless of whether the device is located in the limousine; (7)establish minimum limousine fares; and (8)define "dispatch"
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The new provisions, Zapata argues in his memo, will make the transportation-for-hire landscape in Dallas safer, more reliable, and fairer.
The emphasis is clearly on the latter. Dallas' existing cab and limo operators, who are quite familiar with the workings of City Hall, have made their distaste for Uber abundantly clear.
The city, too, has a built-in incentive for targeting Uber. It's not clear from the 2013 budget how much the city collected in fees from taxi and limo companies, but it's a substantial amount. Last year, the city earmarked more than $800,000 of that revenue to crack down on rogue operators. Like Uber.
The City Council will decide Wednesday whether to outlaw Uber in its current form. The people of Twitter are already lobbying against.