Photo by Keith McCoy.
The Uber app allows users to submit a driver request and track how far away the driver is through a map within the app.
The Hoover City Council on Monday night is scheduled to consider several changes to a proposed ordinance that regulates taxi cabs and transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft.
The changes were requested by a representative for Uber, Councilman John Lyda said, and could delay passage of the ordinance for two more weeks.
The Uber representative wants to remove what he sees as redundancy in some of the requirements for liability insurance and wants to change some language to allow drivers to respond to digital requests for service while operating their vehicles, Lyda said. There also is a proposed change in language regarding drivers found to be driving under the influence, he said.
The Hoover City Council had a first reading of the original proposed ordinance at the council’s Dec. 21 meeting, but changes being made to the ordinance will require a new first reading on Monday night, Lyda said. That means the ordinance likely won’t be voted on until Jan. 19, he said.
Lyda for much of 2015 advocated for either a change in state law or creation of a municipal ordinance that would allow transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft to operate in Hoover. Efforts at the state level failed, so individual cities in the Birmingham area have been passing ordinances to allow those type of transportation companies to do business in their cities.
Lyda said it’s a shame that Hoover, the sixth largest city in the state, has been so late in adopting such an ordinance while other municipalities moved forward. Most of the other major cities in the Birmingham-Hoover metro area already have adopted ordinances for transportation network companies, Lyda said. “We need to get on the ball here,” he said.
Hoover’s proposed ordinance is much like the ordinances passed in other cities, Lyda said. One exception is that Hoover’s ordinance gives the Hoover Police Department the authority to audit up to 15 TNC drivers each year — to verify that driver’s have proper vehicle inspections, background checks and insurance, Lyda said. Some cities, such as Mountain Brook and Trussville, do not have that provision in their ordinance, Lyda said.
Hoover also is considering amendments to its taxi cab regulations to bring them more in alignment with the proposed regulations for the transportation network companies so that the TNCs do not have an unfair advantage over taxi cabs and other ride-for-hire companies, Lyda said.
Hoover’s ordinance also is different from Birmingham’s ordinance in that the TNCs would have to pay a flat fee of $500 per year in Hoover but $8,000 per year in Birmingham, Lyda said. Each TNC driver in Birmingham also has to pay an individual $30 license fee per vehicle, he said.
Hoover’s ordinance allows transportation network companies to conduct their own background checks on drivers or hire a third party to conduct the background checks, but any third party must be approved in advance by the Hoover police chief. Background checks also must involve a nationwide criminal database, a national sex offender public website search and a driving history search.
TNC drivers cannot operate in Hoover if they have been convicted within the past seven years of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, fraud, sexual offenses, the use of a motor vehicle to commit a felony, a crime involving property damage and/or theft, acts of violence, a felony under the Alabama Anti-Terrorism Act of 2002 or a similar felony under the laws of another jurisdiction.
TNC drivers also would not be able to conduct business in Hoover if they have accumulated more than three moving violations or a major driving violation during the three-year period prior to the driving history check. The driver also must be at least 19 years old, have a valid driver’s license, proof of vehicle registration and automobile liability insurance.
Hoover Mayor Gary Ivey has said he has no problem allowing transportation network companies to operate in Hoover as long as the police chief is satisfied with any such ordinance in regard to public safety.
Lyda said police Chief Nick Derzis has been on vacation and should review the proposed changes to the ordinance on Monday. Lyda also said he doesn’t know how other council members feel about the proposed ordinance or the proposed changes.