SLC Council works on compromise for rideshare groups, taxis

Posted at 9:30 PM, Sep 16, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-17 11:45:24-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Since the spring, the cab companies of Salt Lake City have had to start making room on the streets for some competition.

In April, Lyft launched its operation in town, followed by Uber. Now, the city is trying to figure out what to do about them.

“I think that it’s important we solve the problem because transportation for our residents in Salt Lake City is really important,” said Salt Lake City council chair, Charlie Luke.

The problem is one of fairness, according to Luke.  The rideshare groups, which allow customers to order and pay for their rides through an app on their phone, don’t face the same regulatory scrutiny as the city’s taxi companies.

“We have a number of restrictions right now and requirements on taxi companies that don’t necessarily work for rideshare,” Luke said. “So, what we don’t want to do is have rideshare come in and pick all the easy, low-hanging fruit, so to speak, and leave the difficult, expensive parts for taxi companies.”

To even the playing field, the council met for a work session on Tuesday to discuss making some potential changes to their ground transportation laws. The proposal drew a big response from Lyft drivers.

“I really want to find out what they’re actually going to do,” said Nathaniel Howard, a driver for Lyft.

The most significant change would prohibit Lyft and Uber from picking up customers at the airport, unless they’re going outside Salt Lake City limits.

“Why? What makes it different than the rest of the city? Why should there be certain limitations?” asked Troy Miner, who drives for Lyft with his wife.

But with the threat of fines from the city if they continue to operate unregulated, many drivers are just hoping for a solution to be put on the books, so they can get on the road.

“We don’t want to be hard-nosed about it. You know, we want to do our part and play hard ball the easy way. Everybody needs to win here because it’s really important for the community to keep driving,” said Miner's wife Kathy.

The proposal will go before the full council at a formal meeting, at which point the public will have the opportunity to give their input.