Uber, LYFT and taxi drivers sound off before Jefferson Parish Council

Uber, LYFT drivers, taxi drivers sound off before Jefferson Parish Council

JEFFERSON PARISH, LA (WVUE) - The Jefferson Parish Council said it needs more time to shape regulations that will be fair to ride-sharing companies like Uber and LYFT, as well as the taxi industry.

A vote on proposed new rules was put off, even though cabdrivers urged the council to move forward because they feel their new competitors are getting off easy.

"This is 2016. This thing is moving," said Uber driver Curtis Walker.

Local Uber and LYFT drivers said the parish cannot block the app-based transportation services. And cabdrivers said they are not trying to stifle progress either, but they added that rules must be in place for Uber and Lyft in the parish.

"It has to be a level playing field, okay? That's all we are asking, because the taxi cab industry is suffering and we have all the rules and the regulations," said Delores Montgomery, president of the taxi cab drivers' union as she addressed council members.

"We are under a million dollar insurance policy. Once that app is on and we are working, all right, I went through an extensive background check before I got hired," Walker said.

"We offer a chance for meaningful supplemental income with a flexible schedule and an opportunity to be a small business owner," said LYFT Public Policy Manager Tim Alborg,

And in response to the taxi drivers' complaints, Uber insists that it is not opposed to regulations, it just doesn't like what's being proposed at this time.

"What's proposed in the draft ordinance right now is essentially what's required of taxis, and ride-sharing is not a taxi model. It is part-time drivers, driving when they want and how they want with their personal vehicles," said Trevor Theunissen, Uber's public policy manager for the Southeast.

He backed up Walker, who spoke about background checks.

"We do a social security trace of everywhere that you've lived. We then go into the county courthouse or parish courthouse records of those places that you've lived to pull the data, the records at their source," Theunissen said.

Parish Chief Operating Officer Keith Conley urged a delay in the council's vote.

"There's some issues with the background check, you know? Right now there's only one background check in the beginning in place, and there's no follow-up with that, so we just feel that there are a lot of things that need to be massaged through, hear from both industries, all parties involved," he said.

Top business leaders also said more discussion is needed to achieve parity for all concerned.

"We just feel that Jefferson needs to find a way to work this out, so that we, too, can be seen as progressive and better serve our residents and businesses," said Todd Murphy, president of the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce.

But the taxi industry demanded regulations be approved now for its competitors.

"You have major cities in this country who have let Uber in and now they have to go back to the drawing board. You don't have to do that.You can draw it up today," Montgomery said.

In the end, the Parish Council agreed to put the brakes on voting on the regulations.

"I agree with you and respectfully intend to work with you as we have already to get an equal playing field. But we have some work to do to get there," said Councilwoman Jennifer Van Vrancken, a co-sponsor of the proposed ordinance.

A vote is now expected on Aug. 10.

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