The New Orleans City Council had yet another installment of the vehicle for-hire debate Aug. 14, with taxicab industry lobbyists dressed in bright green T-shirts and Uber advocates sporting black. A few minutes into the meeting, though, the council decided to defer a vote on proposed revisions to the city's ground transportation ordinance until its next meeting on Sept. 4.
District E Councilman James Gray made the motion to defer, citing the many amendments to the legislation that still required votes. That includes Councilman-at-Large Jason Williams' amendment to decrease the minimum fare on luxury sedan rides from $25 to $15 — a move Uber has been pushing. In addition to the amendments, District D Councilman Jared Brossett introduced two new ordinances dealing with ground transportation regulations. The first would set up new regulations for limousines and luxury sedans and the second addresses illegal for-hire operations, namely ride-sharing, and stiffens penalties.
"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, adding that he knew Uber would ultimately come to New Orleans — the questions were when and how.
Council President Stacy Head debated the motion to defer. "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 not specifically address Uber's luxury car service Uber Black, but rather hail-a-car app technology in general — which would allow Uber Black to enter the New Orleans market. The proposal also addresses the rate system of for-hire vehicles, which is a sensitive topic for the local taxi industry.
New Orleans taxi companies, like cab companies elsewhere, have fiercely opposed opening the market to hail-a-cab apps. The taxi companies say the proposal allows unfair competition because regulated taxicabs have to meet regulatory standards that hail-a-cab apps do not.