The New Orleans City Council hit the brakes Thursday and deferred a vote on new rules that would govern transportation services people would order and track with their smart phones.
The council had been set to take action.
"This is the beginning of what will be, I am sure, a multi-part process as we move toward accepting new technology and making sure that it blends properly with the health and welfare of our citizens," said Council President Stacy Head.
Uber's app would give residents and visitors access to the new digital dispatcher service, but the taxi cab industry and some local limousine companies said it would amount to unfair competition. They also raised safety concerns.
"The city has imposed an outrageous burden on all the cabbies, and now they're going to yank the rug out from under them," said Yvette D'Aunoy, an attorney representing several cab companies.
Drivers showed up by the dozens expecting to voice their concerns before a vote of the council. The ordinance would have set rules and fees for Uber Black, a luxury car service. Uber, which provides the app technology, would contract with local limousine companies.
Robert Daspit, of Chauffeur Me, LLC., said he is anxious to partner with Uber.
"They're great for small businesses to succeed, and will decrease downtime for drivers," he said. "I mean, the bigger limousine companies, yes, they do not want Uber because it would be a more competitive edge for them to operate, we all Know that, but they're no different than an affiliate company that's out of state that is sending work down here already."
Before the public was invited to speak, the council began considering amendments to the proposed ordinance, and that gave Councilman James Gray pause. He said the amendments were an indication that the ordinance was not ready to be voted on.
"I think we ought to spend serious time in study and deciding exactly what form this will take," said Gray.
Three other council members voted with Gray to defer the ordinance.
But opposition to transportation services apps in New Orleans aside, the City Council members made it clear that the services will be a part of the city's future.
"This evolution will happen, it's a matter of when and how," said Councilman Jason Williams.
"The app is technology that everybody wants, nobody doesn't want it, the question is how do we do it," said D'Aunoy.
"It's just another service provider, another brand of cereal that we can all eat on, what's wrong there?" said Daspit.
The council is expected to revisited the issue in September.