Uber supporters held rallies in Kansas City Thursday to protest a proposed ordinance requiring rideshare drivers to pay a fee for permission to ply their trade in the city.
The Kansas City Star reported Thursday that, “A parade of UberX drivers and passengers implored a City Council committee Thursday to loosen proposed vehicle-for-hire rules and make it easier and cheaper for part-time drivers to connect with passengers.”
The proposal in question contains several common regulations—such as requiring adequate insurance, vehicle inspections and comprehensive driver background checks—but would also charge individual drivers a fee for permission to operate in the city. (RELATED: San Antonio Passes Anti-Uber Regulations)
The statutory fee is $250 per driver, and goes down to $150 if Uber agrees to pay an annual fee of $10,000, but representatives for Uber claim that even the lower figure is “still among the highest fees in the country.”
Regulated Industries Division manager Jim Ready, though, “said he doesn’t think the city can go any lower than the proposed $150 per driver,” explaining that Kansas City regulators receive no funding from the city, and so must rely on fees to finance their investigations.
Ridescore, a municipal report card produced by free-market think tank R Street Institute that evaluates ridesharing regulations, gives Kansas City a grade of “D-”, saying the city “has a heavily regulated vehicle-for-hire market that benefits special interests at consumers’ expense.”
Kansas City’s low score is driven mainly by its “hostile” regulatory environment and artificial limits on entry and competition, both of which are deemed harmful to consumers.
“If the ordinance passes as is, it would make it very difficult for us to operate,” Uber spokeswoman Jaime Moore told The Star, adding that, “It’s important to us to take the burden away from the driver partners.”
“Making the regulation too tight for Uber means kicking Uber out of town,” added Alex Aye, a part-time Uber driver. (RELATED: Virginia Lifts Ban on Ridesharing Companies Uber and Lyft)
The prospect that Uber might pull out of Kansas City is “certainly a credible threat,” R Street executive director Andrew Moylan told The Daily Caller News Foundation, noting that, “It wouldn’t be the first time Uber pulled out of a city due to regulatory burdens.”
Uber has already ceased operating in Boise and Anchorage due to overly burdensome ridesharing regulations, and Lyft, a rival ridesharing service, suspended operations in Kansas City last October for similar reasons.
“Kansas City has certainly been, shall we say, behind the field in terms of figuring out a reasonable legal structure for these businesses,” Moylan said, pointing out that many other cities “are beginning to catch on” to the benefits of ridesharing services. (RELATED: Anti-Uber Efforts Mostly Fizzling)
The ordinance Kansas City is currently considering “seems like an awfully silly hill to die on,” he added, because “it just drives the services out and diminishes the benefit to consumers and drivers.”