New Orleans City Council to vote April 9 on ride-app services like Lyft and Uber


A Lyft car drives through San Francisco. The privately owned vehicles easily are recognizable due to the whimsical pink mustaches on the front bumpers. - CREATIVE COMMONS/RAIDO
  • A Lyft car drives through San Francisco. The privately owned vehicles easily are recognizable due to the whimsical pink mustaches on the front bumpers.

New Orleans might have ride-app services like Uber and Lyft in time for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, if City Councilmembers Jared Brossett and Susan Guidry get their way. Brossett (who is the chair of the council's Transportation and Airport Committee) and Guidry have set April 9 as the date when legislation will be proposed "to legalize transportation network services in the City of New Orleans."

That date, Brossett said in a statement, was in response to more than 50 proposed amendments to the legislation, which was introduced in early March. Those amendments came from "stakeholders" in the legislation, Brossett said, including ride-app companies and, presumably, the local taxi industry, which has objected to the ride-app services. As Gambit's Jeanie Riess wrote at the time:
The ordinance would create a new class of for-hire vehicles called "Transportation Network Companies" (TNCs). It also proposes a formal registry of drivers, a fee of $15,000 a year per company, and a mileage fee of 50 cents per pickup paid to the city. It would require drivers to have a Louisiana driver's license and undergo the same background checks and drug tests as cab drivers. 
The Transportation and Airport Committee will first discuss the ordinance and possible amendments at an April 1 meeting, before passing it to the full council at the council's regular meeting April 9. It's unclear which of those provisions would be affected by any proposed amendments.

United Cab's ride-hailing app.
  • United Cab's ride-hailing app.
In past months, Uber has urged its riders and fans to contact the council, but now Lyft has gotten in on the action. Sara Lasner, a "community organizer" for Lyft, sent an email last week asking potential riders to advocate on the company's behalf by filling out an online form: "We want to find compelling stories from our community to communicate the need for more options in this amazing city," Lasner wrote. "Over 60 cities around the country have adopted ridesharing, and New Orleans deserves innovative transportation solutions."

Uber is already operating in New Orleans, offering rides in sedans, SUVs and limousines. Lyft is not. Both companies would like to operate in New Orleans with drivers using their own private vehicles, a service which is competitively priced with taxis but can go up at times of high demand, a practice called "surge pricing."  

In other news, United Cab — which has promised riders it would launch its own ride-hailing smartphone app — rolled out its app without fanfare over St. Patrick's Day weekend. It's a far less slick affair than either Lyft or Uber's apps, but based on a single ride last weekend, it seems to work as well as the traditional phone dispatcher.

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