Alabama has a second chance to bring Uber and Lyft services to all residents.
On Jan. 11, Rep. David Faulkner introduced House Bill 190, a bill that places ride-haling companies, like Uber and Lyft, under the control of the state’s Public Service Commission. A singular permit issued by the Commission would allow the companies to operate anywhere in the state under uniform regulations rather than requiring each municipality to file for their own permits and regulations.
A demonstration in support of the bill’s measures put on by the Ride for Alabama coalition coincided with the opening session in Montgomery. Bill sponsors Faulkner and Sen. Bobby Singleton were in attendance, as was Ivey.
Making Uber and Lyft services state wide will assist scores of Alabama residents. We join in calling for the passage of Alabama House Bill 190 and in support of a statewide regulatory system that extends raid-hailing service to all localities.
A similar bill stalled in the Alabama Legislature last year when large cities such as Mobile and Huntsville, bemoaning the prospect of lost autonomy in ride-hailing company negotiations, detracted support.
This is unfortunate. Currently, Uber operates with unique regulations and permits in 11 Alabama cities — Lyft in 7. This means that an Uber experience in Birmingham may be different than one in Mobile, and that taking a Lyft from Auburn to Opelika is prohibited as a regulatory faux pas.
Chances of smaller cities getting Uber and Lyft to operate within their jurisdiction is presently abated as well.
Smaller cities do not have the negotiating power or the commercial draw that large cities do to attract ride-hailing companies. Accordingly, residents in small municipalities lose out on the beneficial services enjoyed by Alabamians in larger cities.
Uber and Lyft alleviates issues such as drunk driving by providing access to a driver for travel to and from bars or parties. An independent study from the City University of New York found that alcohol related crashes in New York City decreased by 35% after the introduction of Uber in the city.
Additionally, Uber, Lyft, and other ride-hailing services are more accessible for those with disabilities than other taxi companies.
Technology such as Voiceover iOS or wireless braille make it easy for those who are blind or with low vision to reserve a ride through an app. Audio is not required for the app, making it accessible to those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
By providing a consistent framework for ride-hailing companies throughout the state, access to these benefits are ensured for all residents.
The bill comes with drawbacks, though. Cities like Mobile and Huntsville have negotiated with and giving concessions to ride-hailing companies to regulate their operation within the city and their competition with taxi cab companies who have paid the city’s licensing fee and adhere to the city’s ordinances.
A statewide ride-hailing license would make these negotiations moot.
Further, placing such companies under control of the state’s Public Service Commission would mean that cities could no longer collect fees from ride-hailing companies because these would be collected by the Commission and added to the state budget.
But the benefits of opening access to ride-hailing companies for all Alabamians outweigh the costs.
44 states have already passed legislation that impose a regulatory framework for ride-hailing companies. Alabama should be the 45th.
The state Legislature should quickly pass House Bill 190 and send it to Ivey for her signature. The bill will provide safer, more accessible rides as well as job opportunities to all Alabamians.