Uber And Lyft Win At Council, Taxi Sees Some Regulations Relaxed
San Antonio's City Council voted 9-2 Thursday to continue its ride-hailing agreement with companies like Uber and Lyft with up to three, one-year extensions to be decided by the city manager.
The decision followed years of debate over what makes the public more safe. The taxi industry says ride-hailing companies should submit to mandatory fingerprint background checks, as the only way to keep passengers safe. Ride-hailing advocates focus on drunken driving, which has declined in arrests and fatalities since Uber and Lyft returned late last year.
Councilman Joe Krier - who voted yes - says everyone on the Council cares about public safety, but he thinks the optional fingerprint program now in effect with tweaks can be the best of both worlds.
"The perfect is the enemy of the possible. Chief, I think you would agree with me that this proposal that city staff are recommending may not be perfect but it is possible. It has a credible likelihood of success which we didn't have before," Krier says.
Drunken driving played a role in Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales' decision to vote yes on this extension after having voted no on the original pilot.
"The numbers for drunk driving is really compelling and the reduction in arrests. San Antonio has recently been listed as one of the four Texas cities with the highest fatality rates on our roadways," she says.
The yes vote comes over the protests of many in the taxi industry who argue the decision is unfair like San Antonio cab driver Marvin Peretz,
"I don't care what you do with their regulations. I don't care. But give us the same rules. Make it a level playing field.
Peretz and others chided the city over the perceived disparity in regulations between taxi and ride-hailing companies. One of the measures voted on separately reduced the licensing fees on taxi companies by nearly half from $440 to $250 per car, eliminated inspections and permitted advertising among other things.
While president of Texas Taxi John Bouloubasis believes council erred on fingerprint background checks, he says the move to again reduce regulations on taxi would help.
"We were able to work for the past eight months with elected officials, educate them on their staff and they unanimously approved all the items we put forward, so I am very pleased with it," says Bouloubasis.
The 9-2 vote to extend the pilot agreement with limited changes came after a big push from both sides to get their way. Tech Bloc, the tech industry advocacy organization, rallied support for Uber and Lyft and was confident they would have at least six votes. Last week one councilman said he thought there was a soft six votes.
Councilmen Ray Lopez and Mike Gallagher were the two no votes on council.
"The resounding 9-2 vote shows there is a lot of agreement across council at this point that ride share is positive for our city and needs to continue," says Tech Bloc CEO David Heard.