Taxi services demand city level playing field with Uber
COLUMBIA - Local taxi companies met with the Columbia City Council Monday, urging members to level the playing field for their newest competitor: a ride-sharing service.
Uber allows people to reserve rides using a smartphone application. Its crossbreed taxicab and technology service has left city council members working to revise the city's policy regulations.
Joyce Mayfield, owner of Metro Taxi, plans to speak at the meeting. She said her ultimate goal is to change taxi cab regulations across the board.
"Some of the regulations need to be changed anyway. They were originally written in 1980," Mayfield said. "It needs to be done sooner rather than later so we can all be on the same page."
Deputy City Manager Tony St. Romaine said Uber managers gave city officials a two-day notice before launching its service Oct. 9.
"Ever since then we've been kind of behind the eight ball to a certain extent, trying to figure out how we can accommodate a company that really doesn't fit our existing taxi cab regulations," St. Romaine said.
The current ordinance requires, among other things, that a cab service:
- Maintains an office within city limits
- Displays outside business identification on every vehicle
- Has a taxi tent on the top of every vehicle
- Has a running meter inside every vehicle
Uber vehicles meet none of those regulations.
"Uber has a very different model than that," St. Romaine said. "They're operating in about 200 cities across the United States and about 45 different countries so they're not going to have an office here in Columbia."
St. Romaine said city officials met with representatives from about seven local taxi companies for about an hour. While the companies insisted the council impose similar operating fees for the new service, owners like Rick Lacy of Rick's Taxi said they welcome the competition.
"They are giving us a set of standards to live by and them an entirely different one," Lacy said. "But I love competition. I think it makes for good business."
KOMU 8 News was unable to get ahold of an Uber driver for comment. Uber's General manager for regional expansion, Pooneet Kant, said the organization plans to help Columbia leaders update the ordinance.
"We have started the conversation with the city, and we look forward to working closely with them."