Mayor Sly James’ office says he has had productive conversations to keep the Uber ride-booking service in Kansas City after new vehicle-for-hire regulations take effect Sunday.
“The purpose would be on how we can keep Uber operating here based on the framework established in the ordinance,” mayoral spokesman Michael Grimaldi said Friday.
Grimaldi said the mayor has spoken with Uber’s regional executives.
On April 9, the City Council approved new rules applying to both traditional taxis and new technology companies such as Uber and Lyft that use smartphone apps to link passengers with drivers using their own vehicles. The city’s laws take effect 10 days after passage, meaning the new regulations go into effect Sunday.
After the council vote, Uber representatives said the new regulations were still too burdensome and expensive for their part-time drivers. They said they might have to pull out of the city. Uber’s supporters were outraged with the council vote, saying it ran counter to Kansas City’s claim as a progressive, entrepreneurial city.
But James said the city was simply insisting on reasonable regulations to ensure public safety. He lambasted as “garbage” Uber’s claim that it was being driven out of the city.
Grimaldi said that Uber has acquired a business license to operate in the city and that its drivers who go through the proper certification can legally operate in the city.
Regulated Industries Division manager Jim Ready noted that only about 25 Uber drivers have paid their fees and completed their certification. Uber says it has had more than 500 drivers on its platform in Kansas City, and Ready said most of those drivers still need to come into full compliance.
Before the new law, individual drivers had to pay $300 for a vehicle permit, plus other costs for an occupational license and driver’s certificate. The new law drops that $300 to $250, which Ready said will be the vehicle permit fee beginning Monday. Once Uber pays a $40,000 annual fee, that would drop the individual driver’s vehicle permit fee even lower, to $100.
Uber issued a statement Friday, saying it hopes to stay in the city.
“We are committed to working with the city to find common ground that could secure Uber’s long-term future in Kansas City,” the statement said. “Conversations with the mayor’s office are ongoing. During this time, riders and drivers will continue to have access to the platform.”
Lyft, which suspended operations last October, hopes to resume operations soon. A Lyft representative said Friday that the company is still reviewing the ordinance and considering its options.