Mayor Mitch Landrieu signed a ridesharing ordinance into law April 15, and one day later the San Francisco-based ridesharing app Uber began offering its UberX service in New Orleans. Uber's local launch happened less than a week after company reps said Uber would not be able to operate under the ordinance's legal restrictions.
Last year, Uber brought Uber Black, its luxury car service, to New Orleans, but the rides were expensive and frequently unavailable. The UberX service will compete directly with the existing taxicab industry.
Uber's local general manager Tom Hayes told Gambit the company "determined that it was possible for us to launch UberX and begin providing ridesharing services through our platform, and we will continue to work closely with the council and the mayor's office as we move forward on this effort."
The ordinance doesn't require Uber drivers to have special licenses, though traditional cab drivers must have a chauffeur's license. A driver for a Transportation Network Company (TNC), the new class designated for digitally based hail apps, would need to pass a background check but would not be required to complete a fingerprint check — both of which are required of cab drivers. TNC vehicles also don't need commercial license plates, though the city requires taxis to have them.
Michael Masserman, the director of government relations for another ridesharing company, Lyft, which also had a presence at City Council meetings, told Gambit that there would be "potentially overly burdensome litigation costs and insurance measures that have been legislated ahead of or before the private sector." No word yet whether Lyft will follow Uber's lead and begin operating in New Orleans.