UPDATED: Oct. 28, 2014 4:00 p.m.
WASHINGTON (WNEW) — They came, they honked, they lost.
D.C. cab drivers circled Freedom Plaza and filled the D.C. Council chambers Tuesday, hoping to stop a bill setting rules for their app-based competition, like UberX and Lyft.
“We couldn’t find any other way,” says one D.C. cab driver.
Tuesday’s demonstration was the third of its kind in the District, slowing traffic around Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest. It didn’t impress people like Tim Abbott, who shouted “long live Uber” as he pedaled past the gridlock on his bike.
“They are doing way more harm than good right now,” Abbott says.
The bill did pass, 12-to-1. It strengthens requirements for insurance coverage and background checks for rideshare drivers.
The cabbies argue however, that the regulations they face are more stringent and costly, which is unfair.
The “Vehicle for Hire Innovation Amendment Act of 2014” was co-introduced by Councilmember Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Councilmember Grosso (I-At Large) in 2013 and provides the legal framework for ridesharing companies to operate within the District. The bill specifically regulates the new class of for-hire services, such as UberX, Lyft, and Sidecar, which are private vehicle-for-hire alternatives to the more traditional means of public transportation and the taxi industry.
“We could not have foreseen the innovation of these new app-based services that have entered the District, what we have found is that they provide an incredibly popular transportation alternative for residents. This bill regulates these services to the extent necessary to ensure consumers are safe and protected. For example, we require that drivers must be 21 years old, and they must successfully pass a criminal background check, sex offender database check, and driving history check. Drivers must also have liability insurance that will be in effect at all times that the driver is available to pick up passengers through the time that the passenger is dropped off at their destination,” said Councilmember Cheh in a statement.
Uber sent its D.C. customers an email Tuesday afternoon after the bill passed to explain the legislation.
“You spoke, DC listened,” the company stated. “Today, we are thrilled to announce that the Council has passed a comprehensive ridesharing framework, providing a permanent home for uberX in the District. With this legislation, DC has become a trailblazer in the transportation industry by embracing innovation, supporting consumer choice and empowering small business owners.”
Such private vehicle-for-hire companies must also register with the D.C. Taxicab Commission who maintains the authority to enforce the regulations of the bill.