Uber Car Service Makes Its Case (Again) At D.C. Council | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Uber Car Service Makes Its Case (Again) At D.C. Council

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D.C.'s taxicab drivers aren't a fan of the new Uber livery cab service, which allows customers to hire a luxury sedan using their smartphone and pay via credit card.
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D.C.'s taxicab drivers aren't a fan of the new Uber livery cab service, which allows customers to hire a luxury sedan using their smartphone and pay via credit card.

The chief executive of popular internet-based car service Uber told District lawmakers Monday that proposed regulations now under consideration would put him out of business. The D.C. Taxicab Commission released the proposed regulations earlier this year.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick described the proposed rules as ranging from "draconian to inane," adding that rather than promoting safety or service, they only aim to shut Über down. 

"Restrictions on certain makes and models that would wipe out over 75 percent of the partners that Uber works with and, really, 75 percent of sedan companies in the city," said Kalanick.

Uber rebuffs new regulation proposal

Uber's customers use the company's smart phone app to order a ride in a black town car; drivers are not hailed on the street. Uber charges a base fare of $7, plus time and distance. There are no meters or printed receipts like in a regular taxi. The fare is charged to the passenger's credit card and a receipt is emailed.

Kalanick said a proposal to require all sedan companies to own a fleet of at least 20 vehicles would push Uber's partners out of business. Council member Mary Cheh, who chaired the hearing before the council's Committee on Environment, Public Works and Transportation, took issue with his reading of the 20-sedan rule.

"The attorney general has read those regulations ... you don't have to have 20 taxis.  So I'm not defending that," Cheh said.  

Cheh insisted the city's taxi commission was not trying to put other people out of business. She said the council is not in a fight with Uber.

"When you tell us how to do business and you tell us we can't charge lower fares, you are fighting with us," retorted Kalanick.

Kalanick accused the taxicab commission as being "on the attack" since Uber started operating in D.C. Cheh admitted some of the items in the proposed regulation don't make a lot of sense, and she reminded Kalanick that none of them are law yet.

Uber sedan driver Saad Hamadi, who owns a single town car, testified that fleet requirements would drive him out of business.

"The requirement for most cars to be 2009 and newer would cause me hardship because it is a 2008 model," Hamadi said. "It's clean, looks nice inside and out, and my customers have never complained about its age."

A familiar story for regulation

This isn't the first time Kalanick has accused D.C. lawmakers and regulators of trying to handicap his company. He recalls an unsuccessful proposal by a D.C. council member to create a $15 "fare floor" for sedan-class vehicles that would have significantly increased the minimum for Uber rides.  After an intense backlash from Uber supporters, that amendment was pulled. 

Kalanick believes the taxicab commission and its head, Ron Linton, are trying to run his company out of town.

"In particular, a guy named Ron Linton, who has had two or three crusades this calendar year trying to put Uber out of business," Kalanick said before the hearing. "He's obviously spending a lot of time with the taxi guys. They're not happy there is an affordable, classy service out there for District residents." 

Linton dismissed Kalanick's criticisms. 

"We have no problem with Uber functioning here, and if they would read the regulation that's proposed, they would find what others who are interested in that service, that there is no real onerous aspect to it," Linton said.

Also included in the proposed regulations: a rule that the company's vehicles must be black, four-door sedans, that they must be classified by the manufacturer as a luxury vehicle, and that 10 percent of the company's fleet must be wheel chair accessible.

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