City Council approves operation of Uber and Lyft in Houston

By Mark Boyle - Reporter

HOUSTON - After months of discussions, City Council has approved the operation of ride-sharing services in Houston.

Taxi cab drivers have been fighting it, but on Wednesday Houston city leaders gave the green light to companies like Uber and Lyft.

For months Uber and Lyft have been asking to operate within city limits, but city leaders have been slow to say yes because there were questions about how to regulate the new mobile app-based services.

City Council members discussed the topic for more than five hours Wednesday and focused on insurance, accessibility for the disabled and how to make sure there weren't any gaps in regulation that could lead to lawsuits down the road.

One of many cab drivers in the council chambers Wednesday was Tracy Brown. He worries with all the new Uber and Lyft drivers, his job may soon be obsolete.

"You're talking about allowing all of this saturation in this market. Bringing down those who are already having jobs and work here, you're almost bringing down everybody to a part time position," Brown said.

Mayor Annise Parker voted for the new services, but also calls it "disruptive technology."

"I voted for it and I really do think what we have done kind of sets the bar for what other cities should do," Parker said.

One way cab drivers will be able to compete includes allowing fare surcharges during peak hours when customers request a ride with a mobile app, something ride-sharing companies have been doing for months.

Uber issued a statement late Wednesday which read, "The ordinance passed today takes the first step toward modernizing regulations to allow for more options in the Houston transportation sector. It gives residents and visitors access to a safer and more reliable ride that costs less. It puts more money into drivers' pockets and gives them the opportunity to work a flexible schedule. And it will have ripple effects throughout the entire Houston economy."

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