The Chattanooga City Council has spoken, and Uber is here to stay.
Council members voted 7-1 Tuesday to pass a combined transportation ordinance that will revamp the existing transportation board, provide some regulatory relief to taxi companies and set rules for app-based rideshare programs such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar to operate in the city.
Councilman Chris Anderson, who co-sponsored the bill, called the ordinance a strong "compromise bill." Anderson's rideshare ordinance was joined with a more comprehensive transportation ordinance written by Councilman Ken Smith.
City Attorney Wade Hinton said the ordinance would go into effect in 30 days. He said after the meeting his office would work with the newly redubbed Passenger Vehicles for Hire Board to set out an implementation process.
Before the meeting, transportation board member and former city councilman Manny Rico appealed to the council saying he felt the ordinance is imbalanced.
He said it was not fair that taxi companies will have to go through the city for permitting, driving history and criminal background checks and other requirements, while rideshare programs would essentially "regulate themselves."
Under the ordinance, rideshare programs would have to do their own background checks and vehicle inspections, and would have to provide that information to the city if audited, or if there was a traffic accident.facebook
Rico said the taxi board once had taxi operators as members, and it caused serious problems.
"I'm for competition, but I'm for fair competition. And what I see here is very unfair to the taxis," Rico said. "I'm really concerned about [you] letting them regulate themselves at Uber. Something bad's going to happen."
He added that having two sets of rules for the two competing businesses could open the city up to legal action.
Councilman Yusuf Hakeem, who was the only member to vote against the ordinance, attempted to get the transportation ordinance amended to include two suggestions put forth by Millennium Taxi Service owner Tim Duckett.
In a letter to council members Monday, Duckett asked that the council remove a rule requiring taxis to get emission testing in Hamilton County and allow the cabs to be registered in other counties that do not require emissions tests.
Duckett also asked that the council remove a section intended to relieve taxi companies. The proposed ordinance would remove a requirement that taxi companies have a central dispatch location that's staffed around the clock. He said its dangerous for taxi drivers to be fielding dispatch calls via cellphone on the road.
The attempt to amend the bill failed in agenda session, as did an attempt by Hakeem to make the city's internal auditor solely responsible for auditing rideshare companies.
Smith said after the voting meeting that the city auditor could easily take the lead on audits for the first year of the ordinance's life. But he wanted the city's vehicle board and its inspector to have the authority to audit rideshare companies, too.
Councilman Russell Gilbert abstained from voting on the controversial transportation ordinance, because he wanted to avoid a conflict of interest. He is close with some in the taxi industry, he said.
Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@times freepress.com, @glbrogdoniv on Twitter or at 423-757-6481.