Panel Reviews Cab Standards
Published: Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 13:09
After a negative response to new taxi regulations from private car service Uber and other digital dispatchers, the D.C. Taxicab Commission has created a panel to review current regulations and vehicle definitions.
The panel, which is composed of four commission members, seeks to alleviate Uber’s concerns about its new UberX line, which launched in August. Uber traditionally uses a fleet of town cars and SUVs and also offers a digital dispatch service for traditional taxis.
UberX, however, uses smaller and cheaper cars such as the Toyota Camry Hybrid at prices that are lower than traditional taxis. These cars do not meet the regulatory weight requirement under newly implemented DCTC regulations, preventing them from being licensed as black cars.
According to DCTC spokesperson Neville Waters, UberX’s system creates an uneven playing field for traditional taxi companies.
“I think much of the motivation of UberX is to ward off the competition of other services like Lyft [another taxi dispatch app], and those are considerations we are trying to take into account,” Waters said.
Uber Regional General Manager Rachel Holt and General Manager Zuhairah Washington disagreed and said that the new regulations hindered competition too severely.
“He calls it unfair competition; we call it cheaper and better rides for the people who live, work and play in and around D.C.,” Holt and Washington wrote in an August blog post.
The issue has received attention from Mary Cheh, Ward 3 councilmember and chair of the D.C. Council’s Transportation Committee, who had been a vocal supporter of Uber since it came to the District two years ago. In an attempt to counteract the new regulations, Cheh wrote several letters to DCTC condemning the regulations and is working on a bill which will be potentially introduced September 17.
Uber spokesperson Nairi Hourdajian said that the current regulations are anti-competitive and anti-consumer.
“Uber is committed to continuing to deliver better, more reliable and more affordable transportation options to District residents and is exploring options for maintaining a full range of options in D.C.,” Hourdajian wrote in an email. “We appreciate Mary Cheh’s leadership pushing for consumer choice, driver opportunity and innovation for the District and applaud her continuing to stand up for District consumers in the face of DCTC regulations that do just the opposite.”
Waters added that he was hopeful that the panel would be able to successfully negotiate between all different sides.
“I think it would be ambitious to say that in the next 30 days, the panel members will craft new regulations. But I can say it is very likely there will [be] some modifications of what the current regulations are,” Waters said. “Hopefully we reach a resolution that allows all those services to operate with our primary concern being the protection of the consumer.”
This is the latest development in Uber’s continued clash with DCTC. Earlier this year, DCTC proposed new regulations standardizing the look of cabs, as well as a new credit card payment system for taxicabs, the Modern Taximeter System, with which Uber would be incompatible.
Correction: An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated that Uber owns a fleet of town cars and SUVs. Uber does not own any vehicles.