In response to my FOI request, City Attorney Tom Carpenter has provided a copy of the draft of an ordinance to be discussed by the Little Rock City Board next week to permit “transportation network companies” such as Uber to operate in the city under regulations similar to those that apply to taxicabs.
Uber is already operating. City directors decided last night not to object to unpermitted operation under the theory that the first 10 rides for each customer are free through Friday and so the company, until Friday or until ride limits are reached, isn’t doing business here. (Uber presumably is paying drivers to operate on the streets with people who’ve downloaded their app, however.)
No matter. The ordinance comes up next Tuesday and the board seems anxious to get on board this development — generally liked by consumers but also the subject of complaints in some cities for lack of regulation. Carpenter’s copy is marked with changes and highlight where the city and Uber had differences. (Though this ordinance will apply to Uber, it will also apply to other car services based on mobile apps that might decide to come to Little Rock.) Insurance changes chiefly were in Uber’s favor, notably with only basic personal auto insurance required for drivers not yet carrying passengers. Uber had wanted to be permitted to have cars up to 10 years old, but the draft notes that taxicabs have a seven-year age limit and so will Uber. Also, Uber wanted to have drives as young as 19, but the city held firm at 21.
The insurance issue is causing some controversy around the country. In Little Rock, Uber got what it wanted — no company liability for drivers who are plugged into the app, but not yet carrying a passenger. The city also resisted explicitly granting a waiver to such companies from driver’s actions. Some car service drivers are facing lawsuits for accidents when they were cruising but not carrying. Uber must also comply with State Police background checks. One question is whether Uber will obey the ordinance. They started operating without one last week.
Noted: Uber wouldn’t receive the reception it’s getting but for a generally low opinion of taxicab service.