City Council postpones vote on Uber and Lyft ride sharing services

HOUSTON - Houston City Council Wednesday postponed a vote on the controversial Uber and Lyft ride sharing service rules for seven weeks.

The new vote date is set for July 30.

Uber and Lyft are smart phone apps that work like a taxi service.

Taxi drivers don't like it, but the city of Houston is another step closer to allowing shared ride services to operate in Houston.

Houston City Council Member Mike Laster says he supports the delay to give all sides an opportunity to work on an agreement that is best for consumers and the transportation industry.

"It is true the industry is changing, it is true we need to be more responsive to that change," Laster said.

However, he is also concerned that many of the companies continue to pick up passengers, while operating outside of city of Houston rules and regulations.

"Up through last week, 160 citations have been issued to companies that have been operating illegally within this city and as of yet, we have not prosecuted any of them," Laster said. "I think a little more time will give us perspective on what we're going to do about enforcing the rules."

Mayor Annise Parker told council members she was against delaying a vote, however she lost Wednesday's battle.

Taxi companies are trying to put the brakes on the proposed new regulations.

They say Lyft and Uber drivers are uninsured, unsafe and don't have equipment to pick up disabled passengers.

"We're not against competition, we've never been against competition," said Roman Martinez, President of the Greater Houston Transportation Company. "We want to make sure everybody is playing by the same rules. I think the public expects that. I think the public expects safety is taken into consideration and also consumer protection."

Representatives from Uber and Lyft also attended Wednesday's council meeting.

Uber sent Local 2 a statement which read in part, "Today's City Council decision to delay the creation of a permanent regulatory home for ridesharing and allow for modernized transportation options in Houston, is disappointing. Houston residents deserve access to safe, reliable and affordable transit choices and the motion to delay stifles competition and limits choice.Since Uber's launch in Houston, we've seen an overwhelming response from all users. We look forward to continuing to work with the city to ensure Uber is able serve the residents of Houston, and that all consumers can continue to benefit from expanded transportation options."

Uber and Lyft are already rolling through the streets of Houston and picking up passengers who use a phone app to reserve a ride. Their payment is considered a donation.

They've been operating illegally, but now the city of Houston is on the verge of making changes to put them and cab companies on an even playing field.

But taxi companies are trying to put the brakes on the proposed new regulations. For one, the new rules would do away with a minimum $70 fare for limousines and the 30-minute required pickup time for taxi cabs.

While the city continues to weigh these proposed regulations, a federal judge has set a July 15 court date to hear the request for an injunction against the ride-sharing companies that was filed by cab companies.

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