San Antonio May Drive Uber Out Of Town

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Casey Harper Contributor
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San Antonio’s city council is set to vote Thursday on regulations that Uber says, if passed, will force the company to stop doing business in the city.

San Antonio’s proposed regulations are an extreme example of the fights the quickly growing ridesharing startup is facing across the country.

Josiah Neeley, senior fellow and Texas director for the R Street Institute, said crony capitalism is to blame. He said consumers are usually in favor of Uber coming to their city, but the large, established taxi interests lobby local government to prevent Uber and similar companies like Lyft from competing with them.

The regulations also would force drivers to get a full physical and eye exam, take a prescheduled drug test, be certified that they can read and speak English, complete a defensive driving course, and have the vehicle be subjet to expensive random checks, among other things.

“Many of those things are redundant either of what you need to to to be able to get a driver’s license at all or redundant of what Uber already does for its drivers,”  Neeley told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The requirements that the San Antonio proposal puts on ridesharing are far in excess of what it put for taxis.”

Uber said in a letter to the mayor and council that the regulations are redundant, unnecessary and would cost hundreds of dollars to part time drivers. They asked for regulations similar to those in Houston or Austin.

“It is important to stress that these are all unnecessary hoops to go through for someone simply looking to utilize their car for some part-time work and help their fellow San Antonians move around the city,” the letter reads. “Cities like Austin have reviewed the [Transportation Network Companies’] safety and security protocols and deemed this marketplace safe and secure without the need of duplicative and/or unnecessary requirements.”

Uber said that the strict regulations would make it unfeasible for them to do business in the city.

“The outcome of the discussion has resulted in a proposed ordinance with numerous flaws, that if enacted would force TNCs to abandon service in San Antonio,” the letter reads. “The proposed ordinance creates extensive, unnecessary requirements for parttime drivers, creates barriers to entry for drivers and significantly deviates from the standards set by every other Texas municipality that has enacted TNC regulations.”

Uber has been in hot water lately for a range of issues. This week, San Francisco and Los Angeles announced they are suing the company. Ethical questions about Uber tracking its users have also raised eyebrows.

Uber has faced battles from out west in Portland to the east coast in New York City as well as the state of Nevada, to name a few. The service has been banned in many international cities, suspended in Spain, and India has ordered its states to ban the service. These PR battles add another layer of complexity as Uber fights a series of small regulatory wars with local governments across the country.

The San Antonio decision is also part of a larger struggle to update regulations as the new generation of transportation companies enter a marketplace with outdated rules.

Many of the regulations cities have in place are outdated and don’t address problems posed by companies like Uber and Lyft. Neeley pointed to rules that require drivers take tests on their familiarity with the area they service. 

“That’s something that predates GPS and smartphones and all these other things that doesn’t make sense in an era when you have those systems, and there are a lot of things like that,” he said. “The regulation was built around an old 20th century transportation model and it doesn’t really fit with these new 20th century technologies.”

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