As expected, Uber and City Hall are poised to continue their battle over rules regarding how the ride-hailing company operates in Kansas City.
Uber has shown before that it doesn’t like cities telling it what to do, but the Missouri General Assembly fortunately shot down statewide regulations in the last session. As lawmakers pointed out, individual cities should be able to put in place requirements designed to protect passengers.
As we have noted before, however, the city also must work with the ride-hailing companies to welcome new ways of serving the public, something Uber, Lyft and others have done with a fair amount of success around the country. Plenty of people get fast, efficient and reasonably priced service from these businesses.
Kansas City in 2015 got some bad publicity when it went toe-to-toe with ride-hailing firms, determined to get them to agree to rules that allow the city to essentially approve the driver’s background and safety of a vehicle.
Ultimately, Uber agreed — but then irritated Mayor Sly James and others in 2016 with its failed gambit of going to Jefferson City.
Now, the city is looking at a key change in its ordinances. Drivers currently can carry passengers during an “orientation” period of up to 30 days as they get their driver’s certificate and permit from City Hall. The ultimate prize is a purple sticker issued by the city, showing passengers they are getting in a city-approved vehicle.
But Jim Ready, the leader of the Regulated Industries Division, says he wants to get rid of that loophole. He said some drivers are wrongly claiming they are in the city’s orientation program and just waiting for their city-issued licenses. That does put passengers at risk of being picked up by drivers who may overcharge passengers or do something much worse.
City and ride-hailing officials need to revisit this requirement and take a close look at reported incidents of problems. Passengers shouldn’t be tricked into paying for rides in undocumented vehicles.
While Uber’s general defense is that less regulation is better, Kansas City officials ultimately must help protect the public with sensible ordinances. If the 30-day orientation rule is being abused, it should be eliminated.