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Minneapolis City Council wades into ride sharing regulation

  • Blog Post by: Eric Roper
  • March 18, 2014 - 4:10 PM

A City Council panel began work Tuesday on creating new regulations that would allow ride sharing services like Lyft and UberX to operate legally in Minneapolis.

Just how the new ordinance for so-called Transportation Network Companies (TNC) would be structured remains to be seen. Lyft and Uber, which allow vehicle owners to essentially act as their own chauffeurs, are currently operating illegally in Minneapolis under the city’s taxicab ordinances.

Committee chair Lisa Goodman said other cities’ attempts to regulate the services offer Minneapolis guidance on what works and what does not.

“We have a lot of experience of best practices around the country and it would make sense that we use this as an opportunity to try to balance both sides as best we can and try not to pick winners and losers.”

She later added: “It’s just a question of what it’s going to look like. It’s not a question of if we’re going to allow it, because we are.”

Grant Wilson, the city’s director of business licensing, said his office has concerns about insurance coverage, as well as the details of the companies’ background checks and vehicle inspections. He also raised the possibility of drivers discriminating against certain neighborhoods, which taxicabs are banned from doing.

“One of the things that I would like to look at is to make sure that we have a reliable taxicab service all of the time,” Wilson added. “So when you need a 4 a.m. taxicab to get to the airport for an early flight, they’re going to be there. Will the TNCs be there? I’m not sure. But right now our taxicabs are, because they’re out 24/7. They provide small vehicle passenger service for hire for all persons, including those with disabilities that might need a wheelchair van.”

Ordinance sponsor Jacob Frey said the city has expressed a goal of moving away from an “auto-centric mentality.”

“And while this is not the only option, I think this is one option in the whole collage of transportation possibilities that I think is applicable here,” Frey said. “Are we saying that Lyft and UberX are going to get a free pass? No.”

The city’s regulatory committee referred the matter to staff, which will work on crafting ordinance language.

© 2014 Star Tribune