Recently, an editorial in the Springfield Business Journal promoted the benefits ridesharing companies like Uber could bring to Springfield residents. The author of that article wrote about how he had used the service many times in other cities and enjoyed the experience. He also felt that demand in Springfield is there for Uber and companies like it to be successful. However, while the author and city residents might be ready to embrace new transportation options, the city’s regulations are out of date and, as written, could block ridesharing companies.
The sections of Springfield’s municipal code that deal with for-hire vehicles (which are likely to encompass Uber) were not written with ridesharing in mind. The code is primarily concerned with the operation of taxis, limousines, and hotel courtesy vehicles, and has no language for companies like Uber. It also envisions an industry consisting of taxi/limo companies (which own and license the vehicles) and drivers (who are hired to contract to drive the vehicles). However, ridesharing companies do not own a set amount of vehicles that they let out to professional drivers; instead, they merely connect potential passengers with people driving their own personal vehicles.
This means that as things stand, if Uber attempted to open up in Springfield, it would be unclear who had to register the vehicles and how they would be registered. Either option—taxi or limo—would create awkward requirements for part-time drivers, as the code requires that vehicle owners:
- Maintain a business address with telephone service.
- Maintain a daily log of all trips.
- File a balance sheet and income statement prepared by a certified public accountant that shows the “business” has not less than $5,000.00 in liquid assets.
The code also requires that drivers:
- Follow a dress code (slacks and a collared shirt).
- Complete first-aid training.
- Take a physical exam.
- Present evidence of previous taxi or driving experience.
Additionally, regulations regarding fares would block Uber’s surge pricing practices, an integral part of their business model.
Springfield’s for-hire vehicle regulations were written for a purpose, but times and market realities are changing. States and cities across the country have changed regulations so that Uber and companies like it can operate. This is a chance for Springfield to be proactive and write sensible regulations now, so that its residents will be able to enjoy ridesharing as soon as possible.