Uber, Lyft OK'd in Houston, Debated in Dallas

Houston folds the Uber/Lyft smartphone-centric model into taxi, limo and airport shuttle regulations; Dallas faces a mid-September vote on guidelines.

by William Crum, McClatchy News Service / August 7, 2014

App-based ride services Uber and Lyft became an official part of the transportation landscape in Houston on Wednesday.

Houston’s city council folded the Uber/Lyft smartphone-centric model into regulations governing services including taxis, limousines and airport shuttles.

Up in Dallas, the city council had lots of questions as it reviewed proposed regulations that could come up for a final vote in mid-September.

The Oklahoma City Council is in the midst of reviewing proposed regulations for Uber and Lyft, classifying them as “transportation network companies.”

Part of an increasingly trendy “sharing economy” that includes apps for finding parking when space is tight and arranging overnight stays in private homes, Uber and Lyft enable drivers in private vehicles to make deals with individuals looking for rides.

Uber rolled out its app last October in Oklahoma City, while Lyft arrived in April.

The San Francisco-based companies handle the financial transactions for rides arranged using their apps, taking a percentage off the top and paying drivers the balance.

The city council plans a public hearing on Oklahoma City’s proposed regulations on Aug. 26.

Here are the ledes on today’s stories by Mike Morris (@mmorris011) at the Houston Chronicle and Tom Benning (@tombenning) at the Dallas Morning News.

First from Houston 

“It took 16 months, but Houston officials Wednesday finally found acceptable regulations to corral the changing paid ride industry.

“By a 10-5 vote, with two council members absent, City Council approved new paid ride rules, amending the existing Chapter 46 that covers everything from taxis and limos to jitneys and airport shuttles. The changes open up Houston, legally, to new entrants like Uber and Lyft that use smartphone apps to connect willing drivers with interested riders, using the driver’s personal car.

“Taxi companies vigorously opposed much of the proposal.

“A nearly five-hour discussion Wednesday focused largely on numerous amendments offered by council members, most focused on protecting consumers, treating established industry fairly and ensuring fair access for the disabled.”

From Dallas 

“The road to overhauling Dallas’ regulations for taxi cabs, limousines and app-based car services could prove to be a winding one.

“Some council members on Wednesday panned various aspects of the proposed changes, even as others praised the results of a months-long process to completely revamp the city’s code covering the so-called “transportation-for-hire” industry.

“Among the major aspects of the proposal are deregulation of how fares are calculated, adjustment of some of the insurance requirements for those companies and fine-tuning of the permitting process for companies, drivers and vehicles.”

And the money quote, from Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings:

“The marketplace is changing, and it will continue to change. We have got to be in a place where we let the marketplace speak to us and react appropriately.”

©2014 The Oklahoman