Houstonians worry about Ridesharing Bill

HOUSTON – Getting to and from work can be a struggle for many Houstonians, including schoolteacher Angela Wrigglesworth.

Her motorized wheelchair gives her freedom.

"I have a disease called spinal muscular atrophy. It's a genetic disorder that I was born with," she said.  

Sometimes her wheels need a lift and she uses a ride-sharing app to get around Houston.

"Having Uber Access has been essential. So many times I've needed them. My van broke down one morning and I had to get here to work," Wrigglesworth told KPRC 2.

But she said she is concerned that House Bill 100, which regulates ride-sharing statewide, does not include protection for physically challenged passengers.

"Technically, Uber won't have to, at this point. The city of Houston worked very hard to set forward guidelines and regulations for them," she said.

The state bill, which does not include guidelines for providing those ride-sharing transportation services for the physically challenged, sits on Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. KPRC 2 requested a comment from Abbott.

As of Friday afternoon, his office had not responded.

Mayor Sylvester Turner issued a statement Saturday warning people of the expected policy changes.

The statement reads:

"As we prepare to celebrate Memorial Day weekend, I want all Houstonians to be aware of serious policy changes affecting the safety of ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.  This Monday, Governor Abbott is expected to sign legislation that preempts the City of Houston from regulating the ride-share in any way, shape, or form.  This means that starting Monday, just because you see a blue City of Houston sticker, I can no longer guarantee that your car has been inspected to ensure it is road worthy and safe.  Starting Monday, I can no longer guarantee that your driver has passed a background check that includes all 50 states and the FBI's national criminal database.  Starting Monday, the City's landmark accessibility ordinance - which both Uber and Lyft helped to create - will no longer apply to ride-sharing companies, so I can no longer require Uber or Lyft to provide wheelchair accessible service or accommodate Houstonians with disabilities.  Starting Monday, if you have been discriminated against, if you have been denied service because of a service animal or disability, or wish to file any other type of complaint against a ride-sharing company, the City of Houston can no longer help you.  Houstonians will need to send their complaints to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation in Austin or contact their State Legislators for assistance.  I know many Houstonians will be using ride-share services to get around safely this holiday weekend.  Protecting the safety of Houstonians is my top priority.  As Mayor, it is my duty to make you aware of these changes so you can be safe now that the State has removed our regulatory authority." 

The general manager for Uber in Houston told KPRC 2 that Uber would continue to offer Uber Access in Houston and honor its commitment.

Wrigglesworth said Texans statewide need that guarantee from all ride-sharing apps.

"My message to Gov. Abbott would be not to sign the bill,” Wigglesworth said. “He obviously has a big decision ahead of him. In regards to helping the disabled community, I think it's vital that we have options just as the able-bodied community. It seems to me, with this bill, that that will not be the case."

KPRC 2 also asked for a comment from the ride-sharing company, Lyft, which has indicated it plans to return to Houston if Abbott signs the bill. Lyft has yet to respond.