UPDATE: The Uber item will get special attention by the City Council on August 28.
A year ago, app-based Uber came to Dallas in hopes of stealing some market share from traditional cabs and car services. Fast forward to today, and the company is in danger of being effectively shut down by the city.
Uber, billed as "everyone’s private driver," enables any Android or iPhone user to summon a driver on the spot. The company dates back to 2011 in San Francisco. Since then, Uber has expanded to about 15 cities, including London, Paris and Dallas. But if the City Council approves new limo regulations, Uber's run in Dallas could end.
The August 28 City Council agenda includes an item on the consent addendum to consider updating limousine regulations. As Uber maintains it is a technology service, not a limousine or taxicab company, it doesn't fall under the purview of current city code.
This amendment would change that by folding Uber's services into a "transportation-for-hire" category. As part of the consent agenda, the item is not up for an individual vote and could potentially be passed without discussion. It could still be pulled from the consent agenda and sent to committee for further consideration.
The ordinance reads in part:
The use of computer applications and other technologies by some providers of limousine service has distorted certain distinctions between limousines and taxicabs. It is important to re-establish those distinctions to help the public understand the differences between those types of passenger transportation services and to assist transportation inspectors in administering and enforcing the city's regulations governing those services.
If the ordinance passes, Uber would need to apply for "operating authority" as a limousine company from the city; its drivers could respond only to dispatches from their direct employer; rides would have to be arranged at least 30 minutes before the service is provided; no meter service would be allowed; and new vehicles would require sticker prices in excess of $45,000. These regulations run in direct conflict to Uber's current business model.
Meanwhile, Dallas cab companies have hired political consultant Carol Reed to represent their interests. Uber isn't commenting on the ordinance right now, but a spokesperson says the company would release a response by the end of the day.
On Twitter, however, the hashtag #DallasNeedsUber is gaining traction.
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. #DallasNeedsUber— Adam Konrád (@kixorz) August 26, 2013
Trying to resist innovation -- that occurred because you suck -- is so sad & so un-American! Hello free market, competition #DallasNeedsUber— Rani Monson (@RaniMonson) August 26, 2013
Dallas should focus attention on important transportation issues--buses, rail, bikes and pedestrians--not the taxi lobby #DallasNeedsUber— Cole Daugherty (@ColeDallas) August 26, 2013
This is like banning the car because you love the horse and buggy more. Innovation and competition made America. #DallasNeedsUber— Bino! (@binocook) August 26, 2013
Texas is supposed to be business friendly, not finding ways to legislate them out. Embarrasing city council. #dallasneedsuber— Steve Hammer (@armondhammer) August 26, 2013