Tuesday night, in the packed chambers of the Dallas City Council, the public had its biggest say yet in the ongoing struggle to develop new regulations for car and taxi services in Dallas. Many in the crowd wore pink shirts in support of Lyft and one group brought along one of the company's signature pink mustaches. Clearly, this was an issue that people cared about, and there was no doubting the passion of the three dozen or so speakers who addressed Vonciel Hill's transportation committee.
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Beyond the mere testimonials for Uber, two distinct lines of comment developed. Those affiliated with Dallas' taxi providers -- people like Jack Bewley, president of Yellow Cab -- consistently touted the need for the insurance requirements placed on cabs to be effective 24/7 for Uber and Lyft cars as well, something that isn't required in the draft transportation-for-hire ordinance. Additionally, Uber and Lyft cars should be marked and required to use a more traditional cab-like fare structure. Supporters of the smartphone app-based services, including spokespeople, drivers and a few customers, touted the superiority of the services to cabs and told the council that too much regulation would stifle innovation and potentially ruin an already great service.
Unsurprisingly, Tennell Atkins, who has received at least six campaign donations from Bewley and his wife, spoke in favor of the proposal backed by Yellow Cab. Atkins also suggested that Uber and Lyft's requirements for the use of their app and a credit card to pay for rides could lead to a form of red-lining. Uber and Lyft might choose not to go to areas where lower numbers of people have smartphones or credit or debit cards, he said.
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"Citywide is a big concern, red-lining is a concern, unmarked cabs is a concern and also 24/7 insurance is a concern," he said.
Atkins' fellow transportation committee member, Sandy Greyson, who led the work group charged with fixing Dallas' transportation-for-hire quagmire, said that she and her group have worked to create a fair environment for all modes of private pay transportation.
"We've tried hard to listen to what the concerns were from the various provider groups, from the limo groups, from the taxi groups, from the new app groups and we have tried to understand what they need to have to be successful in their business," Greyson said. "This draft ordinance reflects what we heard."