The Gainesville City Commission passed the vehicle-for-hire ordinance Thursday night.
Uber, a ride-sharing service, has been working with the city on the ordinance for months, said Cesar Fernandez, the company’s public policy associate.
The newly-passed ordinance’s regulatory framework for Uber and its drivers allow the city to periodically audit the company to make sure it’s following the complete ordinance, which includes prohibiting street-hailing.
It became effective immediately following the passing vote.
Uber’s longstanding dispute with Gainesville taxi cab services is part of what brought the issue before the city commission. Cab drivers like Mike Stevens sent public emails taking a stand against Uber.
“Does Gainesville not want to support the small business man anymore…?” Stevens wrote in an email.
Mayor Ed Braddy explained the first measure of business was not to accommodate Uber, but provide “relief to taxi cab companies with the idea that we’re going to try to do the best we can to even the playing field.”
“You shouldn’t be forced to become a taxi cab company any more than regulatory code should force taxi cab companies to become like Uber,” Braddy said.
Fernandez explained that being regulated in the eyes of city commissioners means more safety measures on the company’s end, but also a chance to expand and gain driver entrepreneurs locally.
“It gives the city accountability over the process,” Fernandez said.
Commissioner Todd Chase said this was one of the most difficult topics he’s dealt with. Immediately following the decision, Chase wrote in an email that the commission took a lot of time to hear questions and concerns from stakeholders.
“It balances the demand for public safety while encouraging innovation and modernizing outdated requirements on traditional vehicles for hire,” Chase wrote.
Fernandez described the ordinance as an innovative model because it is not as strict as older regulations, and was designed for transportation network companies, like Uber and Lyft.
However, Stevens speculated if Ubers are allowed to pick people up from the Gainesville Regional Airport that several local cab companies will go out of business.
The issue of Ubers at the local airport however, is completely separate from the city ordinance passed Thursday night.
The Gainesville airport has given Uber a contract, said Laura Aguiar, manager of public relations and governmental affairs for the airport.
Aguiar said if the company agrees to the terms, pays the proper fees and acquires the proper licensing, it can provide service to airport passengers without issue.
“The ball is in their court,” Aguiar said.
Fernandez said the airport’s offer is a business issue that will be decided after the commission’s decision.
In regards to the passing of the ordinance, Braddy said he is happy with the decision.
“My goal beginning more than a year ago was to make sure students and other citizens could choose Uber, remove the unnecessary regulations on taxi companies so that they can better compete, and ensure that all rides are provided to a high standard of public safety,” Braddy said.
“This ordinance accomplishes all of these.”