A representative of Raleigh taxi drivers asked City Council members Tuesday to deregulate their industry to put it on a more even footing with ride-share companies such as Uber and Lyft.
Driver Lee Churchill presented a list of costs and fees that drivers must pay under city regulations that don’t apply to ride-share companies, including health and vision exams, drug tests and cab licensing and inspection fees. The request comes as drivers are still adjusting to a new state requirement for higher liability insurance coverage for taxi owners that does not apply to drivers for ride-share companies.
Churchill reminded the council that she had made the same request two years ago, in October 2015, and that council members said then that they’d look into the issue. She said she never heard anything more about it.
As Churchill finished speaking, Mayor Nancy McFarlane told her it wasn’t clear what she was asking for.
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“I believe she’s raising an equity issue,” said Thomas McCormick, the city attorney.
“I’d like to add that I think she has a point,” said David Cox, one of three council members, along with Corey Branch and Dickie Thompson, who have joined the council since Churchill’s last appearance.
McFarlane countered that the public knows that companies such as Uber and Lyft are not regulated by the city and use them anyway.
“When people make a choice to get into an Uber, they make a choice to get in an unregulated industry,” she said.
The General Assembly enacted the first regulations of ride-sharing companies last year. The state now requires Uber and Lyft drivers to undergo local and national criminal background checks and to carry liability insurance, though at lower levels than those now required of taxis. State law forbids local governments from licensing or regulating ride-share companies, which state statues refer to as “transportation network companies.”
The arrival of ride-sharing companies has taken a toll on the taxi industry. In 2013, the year the General Assembly blocked cities and counties from regulating Uber and Lyft, there were 745 permitted taxis in Raleigh operated by 112 companies, according to city records. By this spring, there were only 342 taxis run by 65 companies.
In the end Tuesday, McFarlane asked McCormick to summarize taxi fees and regulations for the council at a future meeting. “We’ll look at it,” she said.
Churchill said afterward that she wasn’t optimistic.
“I don’t think I’ll hear anything,” she said. “Maybe after the election and new people come on board.”