Uber gives city an ultimatum

SAN ANTONIO – Will the rideshare company Uber stay in San Antonio or will it go?

A company manager said Wednesday night that depends on a vote by the city set for Thursday.

On Wednesday, Uber issued an ultimatum to the San Antonio City Council: unless the city repeals the entire ordinance, they will abandon operations here.

Chris Nakutis, Uber Texas general manager, said since they started providing service in San Antonio, they have provided nearly 13,000 rides.

However, he said this success may all come to an end if the city refuses to repeal an ordinance regulating their operations.

"Our counterparts have left cities for similar things," Nakutis said. "And, we're coming to the realization that as an industry, these types of burdens are against innovation and against these new technologies."

Nakutis said Uber takes issue with the background checks and fees.

While they can administer their own background checks, drivers would still have to pay for the city's 10-fingerprint background check to get a permit. And, as it stands now, Uber would have to pay a $25,000 operating fee to the city.

A pretty hefty fee, said Nakutis, compared to the cost of operating in neighboring Austin.

"The fee in Austin for TNCs is zero," said Nakutis.

The City Council has already made some changes since approving an initial ordinance back in December.

They've dropped the gap insurance requirement. They've moved from pre-employment drug testing to random testing. They've even scrapped hundreds of dollars' worth of permitting fees.

District 3 Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran said there are some things the city can't afford to take off the table.

"What needs to be in this ordinance is a public safety focus," said Viagran. "It needs to have a 10-fingerprint in there. It needs to have drug testing in there. There are issues of public safety that we cannot compromise on for the safety of our entire community."

If the council doesn't change the ordinance, Nakutis said Uber drivers will stop offering rides here at the end of March or the beginning of April.

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