Photo courtesy of Uber
Uber ride request 2
The Hoover City Council tonight passed an ordinance to allow and regulate transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft.
The move brings Hoover in line with most other cities in the Birmingham metro area, which already have passed similar ordinances.
Hoover Councilman John Lyda, who for 1 ½ years has been advocating for measures to allow the app-based transportation companies to do business in the Birmingham-Hoover metro area, said he’s thrilled his city is finally on board with the idea.
“Hoover was probably the last major piece of the puzzle to make this widely available in metro Birmingham, so I’m really excited to see us coming on board tonight and passing it with a unanimous vote,” Lyda said.
He hopes Uber can get a business license and start doing business in Hoover as soon as possible, he said.
Uber spokesman Bill Gibbons said the company hopes to be up and running in Hoover in the next few days. "We appreciate the leadership of Councilman Lyda and the support of the City Council with their vote this evening to bring safe, reliable transportation options and expanded economic opportunities to Hoover," Gibbons said in an email.
Hoover and other cities needed to pass new ordinances to allow the app-based companies because most cities’ ordinances regarding for-hire transportation were designed for the taxicab industry, which uses a significantly different business model than app-based companies such as Uber and Lyft, Lyda said.
People who want to use Uber to get a ride somewhere can download the Uber app on their phone. It allows them to request a particular ride, and the app gives them an estimated fare and lets them know available drivers and vehicles in the area and an estimated arrival time.
Customers can choose the vehicle they want to use, and there is no cash involved in the transaction. All payment is done via credit card over the app, not with the driver.
Hoover Councilman Jack Natter said tonight he has used Uber in various cities and states over the past two years.
“I’ve been extremely pleased with the service they offer and fares,” Natter said. “I welcome them to the city of Hoover.”
He particularly likes that customers know the fare before they ever get in the vehicle, he said.
Hoover's ordinance different
Hoover city attorney Charlie Waldrep said Hoover’s ordinance is similar to ordinances passed by other cities in the metro area and was designed to complement them, not conflict with them.
However, Hoover leaders wanted some additional provisions and safeguards written into their ordinance that are designed to provide another layer of protection for people who may choose to use an app-based transportation company in the city, Waldrep said.
For example, Hoover’s ordinance requires that, once a year, transportation network companies must provide a list of all the identification numbers for drivers who picked customers up in Hoover in the preceding month. The Police Department can select up to five driver identification numbers to make sure those drivers passed criminal background checks and driving record checks and their vehicles passed vehicle inspections.
The revised ordinance also states that transportation network companies that use a third party to conduct background checks on drivers must use a company accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners and must keep records about driver qualifications for at least two years from the time a driver is activated.
No driver could, within the previous seven years, have been convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, fraud, sexual offenses, use of a motor vehicle to commit a felony, a crime involving property damage and/or theft, acts of violence or a felony under the Alabama Anti-Terrorism Act of 2002 or a similar felony offense in another jurisdiction.
People also would not be allowed to operate a transportation network company (TNC) vehicle if they have more than three moving violations or a major driving violation during the previous three years. Drivers also would have to be at least 19 years old and would have to have a valid driver’s license, proof of vehicle registration and automobile liability insurance.
TNC vehicles that operate in Hoover would be required to have at least $1 million in automobile liability insurance, and the companies would have to carry general liability insurance for at least $1 million.
Hoover officials also passed amendments to their taxicab ordinance designed to ensure that taxicabs and transportation network companies are both treated fairly.
“We just tried to evenly regulate both,” said April Danielson, another attorney for the city of Hoover.
Hoover’s ordinance also was different from Birmingham’s ordinance regarding the business license fee that transportation network companies are required to pay. In Birmingham, the companies must pay an annual fee of $8,000, and each driver must pay a $30 fee, Lyda said. In Hoover, the company pays $500 a year, and the drivers pay nothing.
Hoover police Chief Nick Derzis said his main concern was that people who use these services in Hoover be protected as much as possible. He is satisfied with changes made in Hoover’s ordinances designed to provide that extra layer of protection, he said.
Waldrep said he would not be surprised if some of the other cities amended their transportation network company ordinances to provide some of the same safeguards.
This article was updated a couple of times by 9:45 p.m. with comments from Uber spokesman Bill Gibbons and to add the video interview with Councilman John Lyda.