47ºF

City could decide fate of ride-sharing companies Thursday

Uber GM says new rules could force them to shut down in San Antonio

Startups like Uber -- an app that lets people hail a taxi or car service from their mobile phone -- say they are facing unfair legal challenges from the established players.

SAN ANTONIO – They say they offer a safe, reliable alternative to taxis and other forms of transportation, now after several months of meetings and discussions the City Council could decide the fate of ride share companies operating in San Antonio Thursday morning.

The council is poised to pass several new rules to regulate Transportation Network Companies that the businesses claim could force them to shut down.

Julian Montez is a frequent user of ride share company Uber, he likes the flexibility the service provides.

"A lot of my friends us it, I use it, it's extremely convenient to just get a quick ride anywhere," Montez said. "It's really convenient to be able to use my phone in order to see where a cab is at."

But if the City Council passes a series of new regulations targeting companies like Uber, Montez may no longer have that option available to him.

"It's not a question of would we leave, it's could we actually be here," said Chris Nakutis, general manager for Uber's Texas operations.

Nakutis said the proposed regulations before council are beyond anything they've faced in other cities, specifically the strict insurance requirements that are being proposed.

"We already provide very strong insurance that is 18 times higher than what the taxis provide in San Antonio and the cites of Austin, Houston and Dallas have all agreed that that is more than enough insurance to cover the industry and San Antonio is saying you need something else," Nakutis said.

Nakutis said the council should slow down the process and look at the regulations that have been passed in other Texas cities.

"Austin took about 18 months to evaluate the industry to figure out what works and what didn't work, Nakutis said. "This is pretty much thrown together and is very different than anything we've ever seen."

If the council does adopt the regulations Nakutis said it could make it impossible for Uber to operate in San Antonio which could cost the city thousands of jobs.

"Taking some time to see what other cities have done like Austin and Dallas and trying to figure out what works in the city is better than destroying thousands of jobs in one swoop," Nakutis said.

While the council isn't trying to put these companies out of business, Nakutis said that may be the unintended consequence of these regulations.

Uber said 10,000 people have signed a petition supporting ride share companies and they plan to have a rally on the steps of City Hall tomorrow morning before the council votes.

"We provide a safe and reliable product and what you see in San Antonio is overwhelming support for us being here," Nakutis said.


About the Author: