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Mixed Reaction To Ann Arbor City Council Failing To Amend Taxicab Ordinance

Aug 20, 2014

For now, you can still catch a ride in Ann Arbor from alternative providers Uber and Lyft.  Proposed regulatory changes to the city's taxicab ordinance to include those services stalled out before City Council this week and the reaction has been mixed.

Credit Flickr/ CC/ Alfredo Mendez

Uber and Lyft say they want to work with the city to find a different solution.  Other transportation providers are expressing worry about business impact and customer safety.

Michael White is the General Manager of Uber in Michigan.  His company wants to participate in developing an operating agreement, or ordinance change that works. "Trying to force new innovative transportation options into old taxi and limo requirements that really don't fit anymore with this new technology that's available," White says.

As it stands now, Uber and Lyft drivers continue working in the city despite a cease and desist order.That doesn't sit well with traditional transportation providers like Ann Arbor Cab and Airport Shuttle Service. Owner Merlyn Wade thinks the city could shut down Uber and Lyft by enforcing the state's limousine laws.

Why? Wade says there are a couple of issues, the first of which is the bottom line. "They've hurt business to be sure, But I mean we've got a lot of loyal customers too.  I don't think they're going to put me out of business, but I know there's a lot of people that they pretty much ran right into the ground," Wade says.

The other issue is safety and customer protections. Wade says Uber passengers in other areas of operation have been left to deal with complicated insurance issues after Uber drivers are involved in accidents, and that could put Ann Arbor customers at risk.

Uber GM Michael White says local customers will be covered by Uber's insurance. He says safety is an absolute priority, noting the company conducts background checks of all drivers, regular vehicle inspections, and ongoing service quality checks.

Despite his concerns with Uber and Lyft, Ann Arbor Cab's Merlyn Wade believes the proposed ordinance was also an attempt to drive state licensed operators like his company out of the city in favor of city registered taxis.

While the status quo remains in place now, city council member Christopher Taylor and others want to see an agreement developed to allow these types of ride-share programs to operate in the city legally. This could leave Ann Arbor with three different regulations for drivers for hire.

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— Andrew Cluley is the Ann Arbor beat reporter, and anchor for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him acluley@emich.edu.