Why we want to regulate Uber
Last week, we filed a bill that would regulate Uber, Lyft, and similar ride-sharing services. The bill would bring these so-called transportation network companies into compliance with the same regulations that apply to every other form of transportation in our state.
Some have accused us, predictably, of trying to prop up the taxi and livery industries. But while we do want the voices of hardworking taxicab drivers to be heard, our chief goal is passenger safety. Several bills, including one proposed by Governor Charlie Baker, have been filed with a similar objective. Our omnibus bill is contributing to the conversation.
But despite our willingness to work with ride-sharing companies, Uber has decided to mislead the public and its employees. On Tuesday, Uber sent out an e-mail accusing us of “attempting to destroy ridesharing in the Commonwealth” — and launched a petition with similarly hyperbolic language. We would like to correct the record.
In no way are we trying to “destroy” companies like Uber. We recognize the positive economic impact these companies have for individual drivers and their families — along with the commuting public. This legislation would not limit transportation choices in the Commonwealth. We want ride services like Uber to be open and available for everyone, including people with disabilities.
At its core, our proposed legislation seeks to prevent dangerous drivers from getting behind the wheel by requiring common-sense checks and balances, including a mandatory sex offender registry check and a fingerprint sample for all prospective drivers. We do not seek to make it harder for qualified, safe drivers to partner with a company like Uber. However, prospective drivers should be required to pass multistate registry checks that are already in place for bus, taxi, and livery drivers.
This bill also aims to protect Massachusetts jobs by requiring that the vehicles used by these companies be registered in our state. This ensures that Massachusetts jobs go to Massachusetts drivers.
Uber uses surge pricing, charging passengers higher rates at peak hours, to incentivize more drivers to go on the app and fulfill the demand. Every state has laws against price gouging. This bill would require that Uber and Lyft disclose the formulas behind their surge pricing and make it standardized so that consumers always know what they are getting. Passengers deserve a fair deal.
Currently, Uber is not required to provide vehicles that are compliant for people with disabilities. We think that’s wrong. This legislation actually increases transportation choices for those populations that do not have a voice in this fight.
The real reason Uber is against this legislation? It has always contended that it’s solely a technology company — and not a transportation company. We think most passengers would be surprised by this argument. Every day, Uber moves millions of people around the country from Point A to Point B. Insisting that it isn’t in the business of transportation is delusional.
We welcome and encourage the kind of innovation that is behind the growth of ride-sharing services. But innovation must be balanced with public safety and consumer protection considerations, no matter what the industry. If common-sense regulations and keeping people safe are going to “destroy” Uber’s business model, then the model needs to change.
Linda Dorcena Forry is a Massachusetts state senator from Dorchester. Michael Moran is a Massachusetts state representative from Brighton.