The Kansas City Council’s Transporation Committee on Thursday unanimously endorsed new vehicle-for-hire regulations designed to accommodate both public safety concerns and new-technology transportation services like UberX and Lyft.
The measure, which has been debated for months, goes to the full council on April 9.
“We want this. We think this is the wave of the future,” committee member Cindy Circo said of the new-technology companies. “But there is a level of regulation that does have to happen.”
While the latest proposal reduced the driver fee from an earlier version, Andy Hung, Uber’s general manager in Kansas City, said it is still too high. And he said that if the council passes the regulations without further revisions by April 9, it could make it impossible for UberX to remain in Kansas City.
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“We’re still optimistic we can work something out,” Hung said after the committee vote. But he said the fee and current bureaucratic requirements remain too onerous for the part-time drivers who make up most of UberX’s workforce.
“Uber will be unable to operate in Kansas City,” Hung said, pointing out that UberX has already withdrawn from Boise, Idaho; Anchorage, Alaska; and San Antonio.
A Lyft representative at Thursday’s meeting declined to comment on whether that company can live with the measure. Lyft suspended operations in Kansas City last October but has said it wants to start up again soon.
The latest draft calls for drivers to pay a $100 annual vehicle permit fee, if the parent company will pay a $40,000 annual fee. City officials said they can’t drop the fee much lower than that because the Regulated Industries division, responsible for monitoring taxi and transportation companies, is fee-supported rather than taxpayer-supported.
Hung said Kansas City’s actual costs to drivers would be higher than $100 because the city also requires a chauffeur’s license, business license and medical check, along with other paperwork. He said that’s far more onerous than in many other cities.
But committee Chair Russ Johnson noted that the state of Missouri requires a commercial driver’s license for people delivering pizzas.
“Why would we put less protection on the delivering of people?” he asked.
Circo included language in the latest version that requires the city to evaluate in a year how this system is working, and how it should be adjusted if improvements are needed.
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