The chambers of the New Orleans City Council were as bustling as ever for yet another installment
of the vehicle for-hire debate today, with taxicab industry lobbyists dressed in bright green t-shirts and Uber
advocates sporting black.
Both sides waited, filling out time cards and chatting about which direction a vote on the proposed legislation — which would allow limousines and luxury cars to charge according to time and distance, and also decreases their minimum fares — would go.
A few minutes into the meeting, however, the council decided to defer a vote on the legislation until its next meeting on Sept. 4.
District "E" Councilmember James Gray made the motion to defer, citing the many amendments to the legislation that still required votes. That includes Councilmember At-Large Jason Williams' amendment to decrease the minimum fare on luxury sedans from $25 to $15 — a move Uber has been pushing.
It's been a long process just to get to this point. On July 29, the council's transportation committee voted
to move the legislation on to the full council without recommendation. That was after it decided to defer a vote on the legislation a month earlier.
"I would like to move that we wait until we have a consolidated total plan in place to vote on the whole thing at one time, rather than doing it piecemeal, as it appears that we're going to have to do," Gray said, before saying he knew Uber would happen in New Orleans — the questions were just when and how.
Council President Stacy Head debated the motion to defer, saying that transitioning to a new technology is never smooth or easy. "The concept of technology-based apps for transportation is something that is happening around the world," she said, "and it is incumbent upon us to be nimble enough to embrace it and do it in a way that is healthy for our city."
The proposed legislation does directly address Uber's luxury car service Uber Black, but rather hail-a-cab app technology in general and the rate system of for-hire vehicles. Uber, the San Francisco-based app
that allows riders to hail cabs via smartphone, has been at the center of the debate
, with the most often reiterated concern
being that the company will introduce its ridesharing platform, UberX, to a New Orleans market after it gets its luxury Uber Black service through the door. UberX, which would directly compete with cabs, has been fiercely resisted by taxi companies in New Orleans and elsewhere.