Uber

Ride sharing companies and enthusiasts scored a win last month as a bill aimed at standardizing a legal framework for these companies to operate passed the State House of Representatives.

Late last month, HB575, the bill in question, passed 92 to 0. It has been referred to the Senate Transportation Committee on Judiciary A.

The Senate is expected to decide on it later in the session.

The original author, Rep Tanner Magee, said he’s been working to bring Uber and Lyft to Terrebonne and Lafourche since his election. His bill would actually bring Uber and Lyft to the entire state, if passed.

“My constituents use these services in other places and want it here,” he said in an email. “It lowers drinking and driving, encourages people to go to local restaurants and spend money, and generally move around the parish conveniently.”

Folks in the Houma-Thibodaux area sampled in recent weeks do seem to be in favor of the ride sharing services coming locally.

Houma native Reese Williams said he goes to New Orleans all of the time and, when in the city, he always uses Uber.

He said the apps give him peace of mind in knowing that he can get from place to place without having to worry about parking fees and/or driving in locations he’s not familiar with and getting lost.

“I leave the car in the hotel parking lot and then it’s a wrap,” Williams said. “There is nothing else to do besides park it, then call an Uber and then have a good time.”

Houma native Bobby Marcel agreed.

He said he and his wife go to the French Quarter often – sometimes they commute to and from Houma daily and sometimes they stay in a hotel.

The family always uses ride sharing services to get them to and from, citing the mininal costs involved and the convenience of using the servies.

“I think it’s safe,” Marcel said. “I know from experience, I’ve been in situations where if I were not in a place with Uber, I was probably going to drink and drive and maybe be at risk or in harm’s way. I know I am not the only person in this situation.”

Uber and Lyft are two prominent ride sharing apps. The companies each have apps that connect people who are seeking transportation with drivers who wish to ferry them for a price.

These two companies operate in a few locations in Louisiana. HB575 creates standard rules for “companies,” “drivers,” and “riders” can expect while interacting within the state.

Some examples of these are requiring companies to provide the fare or calculation prior to the ride, requiring companies to provide the driver’s license photo and plate numbers prior to the trip, requiring drivers to provide their license upon request, and compelling companies to maintain zero tolerance policies with all drivers as well as methods for riders to report drivers who they suspect may be operating a vehicle under the influence.

It also establishes the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development as the governing regulatory entity over these businesses, and grants local governments the authority to tax 1 percent of the gross trip fare. It places responsibility for collecting and paying these fees, if the local governments choose to employ them, with the company and not the drivers.

While Magee says his constituents desire these services, not everyone he has spoken with is pleased. According to Magee, the taxi cab lobby has been giving him pushback.

“Tons from the taxi cab lobby. But the people overwhelmingly want it and support it,” said Magee. “I might not ever be able to take a traditional taxi cab again.”

The Times reached out to a handful of cab companies, but was not able to speak with them in time for this article. •

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