City officials consider revising regulations to even playing field between taxis, Uber

FREDERICK, Md. — Ride-sharing apps have transformed public transportation, but some local cab owners said it’s hurt the industry’s regulatory structure.

“It’s kind of made it like the wild, wild west,” said Yellow Cab and Taxi Fiesta co-owner Blaine Young.

As of July 1, companies like Uber in Maryland must operate under a new state law that puts mandates on criminal background checks and insurance coverage, but at the city level they are not regulated. At a meeting Friday morning, the Taxicab Commission began discussion about ride-share options in Frederick.

“My biggest concern is that we’re asking people to trust a system, to get into a car with somebody they don’t know, and do the best that we can to ensure that person is a safe transporter for them,” said Alderman Kelly Russell, chair of the Taxicab Commission.

Under the current ordinance, cab companies in Frederick are required to purchase a permit, go through several phases of approval and stick to designated fare rates. City officials said the regulations are in place to protect the public, but they acknowledged it makes it harder for local cabs to compete with the app-based services.

“Looking through the ordinance there’s logbooks, a cap on the number of taxicabs, there are all sorts of regulations that these taxicab companies are required to follow that Uber and Lyft frankly aren’t, said Alderman Phil Dacey, a member of the city’s Taxicab Commission. “Rather than imposing new burdens on Uber or Lyft, I’d be much more in favor of reducing the regulations on the taxicabs.”

Young said he’s fine with that approach, he just wants to see the playing field leveled: “They’re charging $2,500 for a taxicab permit. For Uber, you can sign-up and you’re in business and you have your own car. At what point do they protect those who have played by the rules and made the investment they’ve asked us to?”

The Taxicab Commission said they plan to review the current regulations and explore whether changes should be made to allow fare flexibility for taxicabs.

“We want to offer discounts to seniors and veterans and maybe do specials like Uber does where the 10th ride is free, but the city currently prohibits that,” Young said.

“I think it’s important for us to take another look at these old regulations. I mean, the taxicab regulations scheme was set-up years and years ago, before this technology was envisioned, and so now that we understand people are much more willing to use alternate technologies and are comfortable using technologies with less regulation, I think it’s important for us to take a look at the regulations to see what we may be able to alter to keep them competitive,” Alderman Dacey said.

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