Cab protest from earlier this month

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Uber is very happy with the way things worked out at today’s D.C. Council meeting.

Much to the honking chagrin of the local cab fleet, the D.C. Council passed legislation today that would regulate ride-share services like uberX and Lyft, allowing them to operate with indisputable legality in the city. Emergency legislation allowing these services to operate has been expired for months, so these companies have been operating in what has been referred to as a “legal limbo.”

Introduced by Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, the legislation, which strengthens insurance and driver background check requirements, passed this afternoon in a 12-1 council vote.

“You spoke, D.C. listened,” Uber wrote in a celebratory email to its customers this afternoon. “Nearly two years ago the D.C. Council secured a place for Uber in the District. Today, we are thrilled to announce that the Council has passed a comprehensive ridesharing framework, providing a permanent home for uberX in the District.

Before the council voted on the bill, D.C. cabs flooded the streets in front of the Wilson Building in protest. (This isn’t the first time they’ve had such traffic-inducing protest.) Cab drivers argue that the legislation does not do enough to level the playing field between the heavily regulated cabs and their competitors. Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham attempted to get an amendment passed that would set a floor price for these ride-share companies, restricting how little they could charge. This ultimately failed, and Graham cast the bill’s lone dissenting vote. Under this new legislation, cabs that are hailed through an electronic service can set different rates than the standard metered rates.

These ride-sharing services cannot pick up street hails. Hack inspectors are permitted to check a driver’s phone if they suspect they picked up someone from a street hail and not electronically.

Under the bill, these companies must conduct background checks on all drivers dating back seven years. They are also required to have primary automobile liability insurance of at least $1 million when a passenger is inside a vehicle, and vehicles must display some sort of emblem or decal to identify that it is a rideshare vehicle, like, say, Lyft’s pink mustache. 

Photo by Perry Stein