A taxicab alternative e-travelers hail with a smartphone app will be available in Salt Lake City starting at seven o’clock tonight. Two companies called Uber and Lyft have announced plans to expand here, but city officials say the companies must first comply with safety and fair business rules.
Uber and Lyft are booking services that connect riders through a smartphone app to independently employed drivers who use their own vehicles. While they’ve received plenty of praise for the concept, they’ve also run into some regulatory backlash in cities like Houston, Cleveland and New Orleans.
David Everitt is Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker’s Chief of Staff. He says the city’s limo and taxicab companies are subject to strict regulations regarding cleanliness, vehicle safety and background checks. Everitt believes these companies should be subject to the same kinds of licensing requirements traditional taxi cabs are.
“The larger issue though however is really two-fold: It’s one of maintaining basic life-safety standards for ground transportation services and the second one is having a consistent playing field for business practices,” he says.
Everitt says the city welcomes new transportation models, comparing Uber and Lyft to the popular Airbnb home sharing service.
“It’s a little bit different in my mind in that you’re talking about thousands of pounds of metal moving quickly along streets," he says. "There are still certainly life safety issues that you have with accommodations but this is a little more urgent in my mind, in terms of us needing to figure out how to make this work with our needs in Salt Lake City.”
Everitt sent a letter to both companies yesterday welcoming them to the city and highlighting the city’s existing rules and regulations. He says he’ll be working with the city council in the coming days to determine how to manage the new transportation option.
A spokesperson for Lyft told KUER the business model does not fall into the existing regulations for taxis and hire vehicles, but they look forward to working with city leaders to do business in Salt Lake City.