Montgomery County taxicab companies want to limit the number of Uber and Lyft drivers out on the road.
The Coalition for a Competitive Taxicab Industry (CCTI) is suggesting the measure to the County Council committee considering three new bills meant to “even the playing field” between traditional taxicab operators and app-based ride services.
On Monday, the Transportation Committee will consider new language submitted by the CCTI that would limit Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) such as Uber to just 100 driver licenses this year, “with provisions for additional issuances in future years.”
If the Council doesn’t accept that proposal, the CCTI said it has created a “virtual queue” system that would limit the amount of TNC drivers on the road and on the ride app at any given time.
County taxicab companies, including North Bethesda-based Barwood, are aggressively pursuing fewer taxicab regulations and more TNC regulations in what they say is an effort for fair competition. Taxi companies in Montgomery County must abide by a chapter of County Code regulating driver background checks, vehicle inspections, the color of cabs and other aspects of the industry.
The Transportation Committee, led by Councilmember Roger Berliner, must first decide if it wants to recommend licensing individual TNC drivers at all.
It figures to be a prominent issue in Monday’s worksession, the second on the three bills introduced in October. The committee’s Jan. 26 worksession on the bills included quite a bit of back-and-forth between council members and the representatives for Uber’s Washington area operation.
As it stands, the TNC licensing bill would require companies such as Uber and Lyft to obtain a license to operate in the county. In order to get a license, it would have to carry the required insurance coverage — another complicated issue the committee discussed on Jan. 26.
Uber and Lyft drivers would not have to be licensed separately at the county level, but would have to register with the companies after a required background check. The companies would have to maintain and supply a registry of current drivers and vehicles to the county’s Department of Transportation.
Uber is opposed to providing the registry, claiming “this is confidential business information, and its disclosure would put the company at a competitive disadvantage.”
Council staff responded by saying “lack of this information would severely impair enforcement, as the Department would have no way of knowing how many [TNC drivers] and TNC vehicles are on the road, and would not have an effective way to determine if any given [TNC driver] or vehicle is registered as required under the law.”
Lyft is also opposed to the driver registry, but suggested a compromise that would require TNCs to provide information on individual drivers within 72 hours if requested by the police or a county official. The compromise language would also let the county do an annual audit of the company’s background checks.
Lyft’s recommendation would require the county give notify the TNCs a before releasing any of those records if part of a public records request.
Council staff said it’s not aware of any jurisdiction that puts a cap on the number of Uber or Lyft drivers that can operate at one time. Seattle passed a TNC law that included a cap, but repealed it and replaced it.
Flickr photo via Mike