Over the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to go to Atlanta a couple of times. I met some friends over there and we decided to go out to dinner. How were we going to get there? One of my friends from Atlanta suggested we use Uber. I had read about Uber before but had never used it.
It was a great experience. We ended up being picked up by a late model large SUV. It was very clean and the wait to be picked up was short. The driver was very polite. And most importantly, it was much cheaper than a taxi or driving service. It is simple to use, you just download an app on your phone, request a pick up, and pay through paypal.
I have seen ads that Uber is coming to Augusta. It makes me wonder what kind of response Uber will receive from the local taxi companies, the commission, and the law enforcement. The Oxford, Miss. police department has been ticketing Uber drivers for violating a newly enacted ordinance preventing services such as Uber from operating without paying to be a licensed taxi company. You can read about that here.
Memphis similarly created a similar ordinance that similarly banned Uber if the drivers did not pay the taxi fees. The Memphis newspaper, the Commercial Appeal, came out against Uber stating they believed it was a matter of public safety.
My friend who lives in Memphis, wrote a a letter to the editor refuting this assertion. You can find his letter here (subscription required). Basically, he states that Uber already does a more thorough background check than that required by the city ordinance. Further, because of the GPS technology employed by Uber, it would make it virtually impossible for a driver to commit a crime against a passenger and get away with it.
I am anxious to see how the local authorities handle Uber when it gets to Augusta. I am sure the taxi companies will lobby hard against Uber (as they even opposed a city bus stop near Fort Gordon).
The Richmond County Code appears to be broad enough that an Uber driver would be required to pay the taxi regulatory fee. Ordinance Number 1400, adopted April 16, 2013 defines a taxicab as a vehicle “regularly engaged in the business of caryying passengers for hire….” Uber will likely argue that because the drivers use their personal vehciles and aren’t full-time professional drivers, that the vehicles cannot be considered to be regularly engaged in the business.
Uber is able to offer affordable transportation because, in part, they do not have to pay the costly regulatory fees. It will be interesting to see how Augusta handles Uber when it arrives.
Remember to visit my law firm’s website at www.nehlaw.com.