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Houston City Council passes ridesharing ordinance

Passes with 10-5 vote

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Houston City Council on Wednesday passed a long-debated ordinance to allow ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft to operate legally in Houston. The 10 to 5 vote came after numerous amendments were considered and most stakeholders in the debate seem pleased with the overall outcome of the ordinance. More from the Houston Chronicle:

The council voted 10 to 5, with two absent, to open the heavily regulated paid ride market in Houston to new entrants, such as Uber and Lyft, that use smartphone applications to connect willing drivers with interested riders, using the driver’s personal car.

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“This is something that’s been a contentious issue in cities all across the United States,” Parker said. “I think we did the right thing and I think we did something positive for the citizens of Houston who rely on vehicles for hire to navigate the city without doing something I think would have a negative impact on existing providers.”

Yellow Cab President Roman Martinez said he also is happy the discussion is over so his contracting drivers can return to the streets. He said he does not see the vote as a loss, though he acknowledged the failure of an amendment to cap the number of Uber and Lyft drivers allowed to enter the market - by a 9-8 vote - was significant.

“We’ve always said we are not afraid of competition,” Martinez said, surrounded by colleagues in bright T-shirts. “We just wanted to make sure the playing field was level and that everybody was going to play by the same rules. Council had a little bit different opinion about what those rules are, but now we get back to work.”

One of the most contentious issues was the need for new ridesharing companies to provide access to disabled customers:

The most notable products of a two-day mediation among the major players, hosted last month by council members Larry Green and Brenda Stardig, were amendments on disabled access. In short, the amendments required that at least 3 percent of all vehicles for hire be wheelchair-accessible, that no one company can meet that goal for the others, and that an appointed task force made up of representatives of the disabled community and transportation firms will recommend changes to that percentage to the City Council. Those amendments passed.

“This is about doing what is right and what is fair,” Stardig said. “Everyone deserves access and options for transportation.”

Anyone can sign up to utilize the new ridesharing option in Houston using either the Uber or Lyft mobile apps.

Photo: Adam Fagen (Flickr)

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