Government & Politics

Kansas City drafts rules for vehicles for hire, but Uber is unhappy

Ride-hailing companies such as Lyft use smartphone apps to summon rides, typically from part-time drivers using their private vehicles.
Ride-hailing companies such as Lyft use smartphone apps to summon rides, typically from part-time drivers using their private vehicles.

Kansas City officials on Thursday proposed relaxed regulations and lower fees to make it easier for new ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft to do business here — with the same rules for traditional taxi companies.

But in its initial reaction, Uber was far from satisfied, prefacing what could be more debate.

The City Council will solicit additional comment for 30 days. A vote on the new rules could come in early March.

“This is all so new,” Regulated Industries Division manager Jim Ready said Thursday as he outlined proposed changes for the council’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Ready said he and his staff must continue to ensure public safety while they try to remove bureaucratic barriers and provide an even playing field for new types of companies and traditional cabs.

The city has wrestled for months over how to accommodate new ride-hailing businesses where passengers use a smartphone app to summon drivers who typically use their own vehicles. Ready said he and his staff looked at other cities before crafting something that they think will work for Kansas City. They still want to ensure that the services have adequate insurance, safe vehicles and background checks for drivers.

An Uber representative said the proposed rules are still too onerous.

“This draft ordinance is trying to fit ride-sharing into a regulatory framework that was created for black car livery companies with full-time employees,” Uber said in an emailed statement. “The fees the draft ordinance imposes on drivers are some of the highest in the nation, and the licensing requirements will prevent part-time drivers from getting the economic opportunity they deserve.”

A Lyft representative said he was still reviewing the proposal.

Bill George, chief executive of the Kansas City Transportation Group, which operates Yellow Cab, said his goal all along has been to make sure that traditional cabs don’t have to jump through more regulatory hoops than these new companies. He said he was pleased.

The change would be clear in the very name of the city rules. Instead of a “taxicab code,” it would now be called a “vehicle for hire code.”

Other changes include:

▪ The vehicle permit fee would drop from $300 to $250. Ready said that would provide some relief to Uber drivers who often work just part time, nights or weekends.

▪ The city would try to provide a “one-stop shop” where drivers could present their paperwork and get swifter certification. Some drivers have complained that it took too many trips to city offices and too long to get their permits.

▪ The city would no longer make an initial inspection of livery vehicles, but it would ensure the vehicle has a state safety inspection.

The city will solicit public comment at www.kcmomentum.org for 30 days before the council makes a decision.

To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-226-2058 or send email to lhorsley@kcstar.com.

  Comments