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Regulating Uber, Lyft Struggles To Gain Traction

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Uber
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Jacksonville City Commissioners are no closer to deciding how to regulate ride-for-hire companies like Uber after a two-hour meeting Wednesday.

They spent that time rehashing arguments about how to make the services safe for riders and punish errant drivers.

Levels of background checks and insurance requirements have been sticking points for municipalities across the country seeking to regulate the ride-for-hire industry.

Taxicab companies contend insurance requirements are unfair since they are required to have higher coverage at all times. Meanwhile, Uber has maintained that because its drivers use personal vehicles, they only need commercial coverage when carrying — or are on the way to pick up — passengers.

Jacksonville’s risk management chief Twane Duckworth said perhaps taxis and so-called transportation network companies should both have less coverage.

“I think, if anything, a lot of people have been trying to bring the TNCs to the taxicab model when the taxicabs should be arguing that we’re more like the TNCs in some way, shape or form,” Duckworth said. “At any event I would recommend having some more of a rational level of insurance requirement for the time when TNCs don’t have somebody in the vehicle.”

However, that change would only be accomplished by tweaking state law.

On Wednesday, the city Vehicle for Hire Committee agreed to limit taxi vehicle inspections to once instead of three times a year.

Although a formal motion wasn't filed.

Two bills, one filed in 2014 and the other last year, were again deferred by the Finance Committee Monday. The former, filed by former Council Member Steven Joost, would allow law enforcement to seize vehicles of so-called “rogue drivers” working off the company’s app. The latter filed by Council Member Matt Schellenberg is seen as a friendlier to Uber and Lyft drivers by allowing for varying levels of insurance requirements.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.