All signs point to the Dallas City Council adopting a new transportation-for-hire ordinance at their Wednesday meeting. The ordinance, fought over for more than a year, attempts to level the playing field for cabs -- dominated by Yellow Cab in Dallas -- and app-based services like Uber and Lyft. To this point, the tech services have been connecting riders and car services in unregulated, quasi-legal purgatory. Under the new rules, they will be required to hire certified drivers, perform background checks and guarantee anyone driving for them is carrying an appropriate level of insurance.
Jack Bewley, president of Yellow Cab and major contributor to many of the City Council members who've fought the new plan, doesn't think the regulations do enough. He sent out a warning Monday night: If the council doesn't reject the new ordinance, Dallas will become "the next New Delhi."
Bewley cites the alleged rape of woman by an Uber driver in Delhi, India, last Friday as proof that the proposed regulations will be a disaster. (Throughout his letter, which you can check out in full below, he refers to the alleged rape as having happened in New Delhi. This isn't true, it happened in Delhi, of which New Delhi is one of nine official districts.)
"The tragic rape of a young New Delhi woman Friday night took place after she trusted an Uber driver to take her home. The driver, who had previously been imprisoned on a rape charge, had not been given a full background check, had not been licensed to drive a for-hire car and did not even have verified contact information on file with Uber," he says.
If true, the allegations are damning for Uber. They also represent the type of situation the Dallas ordinance is designed to avoid. The accused Delhi driver didn't have one of the city's required commercial badges as the city had not passed regulations to address Uber. Under the Dallas plan, all drivers for any transportation-for-hire will be required to get a permit. A background check hadn't been run on the driver, who'd previously done time on a rape charge. The new regulations require background checks for all drivers for all services, and specifically forbid anyone who's committed a sexual offense from getting one. Of course, Yellow Cab manager Max Romero admitted under oath that the company's drivers were only subject to intermittent background checks as recently as 2013.
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Bewley further suggests that the ordinance's insurance requirements for app-based services are too lax, because they don't require the service's cars to be commercially insured 24-hours-a-day. Throughout the process, this has been the most common argument against the new regulations. Tennell Atkins has complained about it so much, I can hear the "couple of questions" he's asked over and over again in my head as I type this.
Here's the thing, the new regulations will require that Uber and Lyft drivers are commercially covered each and every time they are transporting a passenger. They will have to obtain a policy that says so. It won't require that they switch to being a commercial vehicle, somehow notifying the insurance company, when they pick up a fare, as Sheffie Kadane has failed to understand over and over again. The new ordinance insures that if you're in a wreck while taking an Uber or Lyft, that driver will be appropriately covered. No driver will "self-insured" as Yellow Cab drivers were until late 2013.