Business

Crunch Time For Uber In St. Louis: How It Might All Come Down To Fingerprints

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation

St. Louis will decide today whether or not to allow UberX to operate on the city’s streets. According to Uber, St. Louis is currently the largest metropolitan area in the country where UberX is banned.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission has been riven with division over whether to allow ride-sharing services like Uber that don’t meet the standards of the current taxi code.

The main issue of contention is Uber’s safety and insurance standards, however, the commission appears eager to alter many of the current regulations to accommodate Uber.

“We believe the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission is on track to make the necessary code changes to allow Uber and other ride-hailing companies to operate in St. Louis at our July 29 meeting,” MTC Chairman Louis Hamilton said July 21. Both Uber’s drug policy and insurance policy are likely to have been accepted by the MTC. (RELATED: Uber: Breaking New York’s Taxi Cartel)

But it remains to be seen whether the commission will give ground on Uber’s toughest sell. As the law stands drivers must undergo a fingerprint background check through the Missouri State Highway Patrol and FBI. Uber uses a third party for its background checks and claims the current law is too burdensome for them to accept.

If there is no compromise on this issue Uber could continue to leave St. Louis out of its rapid expansion. The city’s Mayor Francis Slay wants to change the law on fingerprinting in 2016 to make sure ridesharing services are fully welcomed in the city.

Uber’s Tuesday statement also slammed the MTC for failing to release the changes to the code that are being debated. The company said in a statement “not only have they refused to collaborate regarding what a potential proposal to authorize ridesharing may look like, they have also refused to make their proposal public despite their repeated promises to do so.”

The meeting is being held at the campus theater of St. Louis Forest Park Community College rather than MTC headquarters on Delmar Blvd as large crowds of Uber supporters are expected to attend the event.

The MTC is made-up of a nine-member commission, four of whom have to be from the established taxi industry. The appointments are made by mayor Francis Slay and county executive Steve Stenger.

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