City weighs proposed changes to allow Uber, Lyft to operate in Houston

HOUSTON - Houston City Council held a special meeting Tuesday on two controversial ride-sharing services. 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. Ride-sharing companies 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.

"Every driver gets fingerprinted, a background check; every vehicle gets inspected at least $1 million insurance," said Chris Newport, with the City of Houston.

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.

"The bully comes in and takes away the lunch money from all the drivers. We got drivers here for 10, 20 years," said Ramon Martinez, with Yellow Cab.

The proposed city changes were announced one day after a federal judge declined to issue a temporary restraining order that was sought by cab companies in Houston. Because the ride-sharing services are not currently legal, the city has been issuing tickets to drivers who pick up passengers.

But that would soon change, if the proposed regulations are passed.

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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