The New Orleans City Council's Transportation and Airport Committee voted last week to move an ordinance to the general council that would allow ridesharing services like UberX to operate in the city. No date has been set for voting on the issue.
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 permit, 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. District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry said these, combined with other regulations, would protect consumers and help the city control the expansion of ridesharing.
The debate on the floor of the nearly three-hour meeting March 5 was another step for the council as it considers making exceptions to its regulations for app-based services like San Francisco's Uber.
Outside New Orleans City Hall, Uber set up a tent and passed out donuts, coffee and Uber T-shirts to passersby and supporters. More than 30 would-be UberX drivers filled out public comment cards to advocate for the adoption of the ordinance.
Members of the taxi lobby were there as well, with most acknowledging that UberX likely will become reality, but urging the committee to level the playing field for cab companies by loosening regulations. Concerns included whether app-based ridesharing would provide its own insurance, along with whether the inclusion of these services would put too many for-hire vehicles on the road, were among the chief concerns raised by members of the taxi lobby and other opponents of the ordinance.
Councilman-At-Large Jason Williams said he was unhappy with the way both sides have been pitted against each other. "I don't think either side wants the other to be shackled," he said. — JEANIE RIESS