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Thomson on Boise’s Uber rejection: Vote hurts taxis

Thomson on Boise’s Uber rejection: Vote hurts taxis

Dustin Hurst
February 11, 2015
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February 11, 2015

Boise Councilor TJ Thomson said Wednesday a vote to reject an agreement to allow ridesharing service Uber to operate within the city hurts area taxi drivers.

Thomson, who joined colleague Lauren McClean in support a temporary regulatory framework for Uber, added that he’s fine with background checks the businesses uses to screen drivers.

The Boise City Council vote 4 to 2 to kill the temporary arrangement because the deal, opponents believed, lacked strong enough consumer protections.

Thomson criticized the vote, saying the majority just hurt Treasure Valley taxis.

“This is not just hitting Uber, but all of our taxis, who are losing ridership during months of free rides by Uber,” Thomson told IdahoReporter.com. “Who wouldn’t choose the free option?”

Uber, an innovative digital service that connects drivers and riders through a mobile phone application, opened shop in Boise in October. City regulators blocked the company’s power to charge customers because officials want Uber to obey, more or less, government taxi regulations.

The ridesharing service has been giving free rides since launching in October, except for a small stint at the end of the year. A local news reporter revealed the company was charging customers just days after Christmas, in violation of the city’s rules for the service.

Uber stood by charging customers for a few days, but eventually backed down when city regulators ticketed two operators.

Uber will continue operating in Boise as the company determines its next steps.

“We're taking a look at our options, but in the meantime, we will continue to offer free rides in the Treasure Valley, as we have done -- safely and reliably -- for the better part of four months,” Uber spokesman Michael Amodeo told IdahoReporter.com Wednesday.

The issue isn’t dead, though. The council will look at a long-term agreement at its next meeting, set for Feb. 24.

This is hardly a new battle for Uber, which has faced similar resistance in overly regulated cities across the country. Common objections to Uber’s businesses model include concerns about insurance, rider safety and vehicle safety.

Boise, in particular, wants Uber to submit drivers to background checks just like taxi drivers, but the company has its own screening method.

Thomson said the company’s protocols are already satisfactory. “I am comfortable with the level of insurance they place on their vehicles while transporting riders,” Thomson wrote. “I am comfortable with the vehicle inspections they perform, which are a similar 22-point inspection we require on our taxis. I am also comfortable knowing that the city could audit their operations while operating under a temporary agreement.”

Thomson said he’ll work with his colleagues to find some middle ground before the Feb. 24 meeting. He hopes to craft a permanent regulation that protects consumers while simultaneously embracing innovation.

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