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Ride-For-Hire Companies Brace For Possible Jacksonville Referendum

Uber app on screen
Flickr Creative Commons

The Jacksonville City Council may be racing toward a populist solution to regulating ride-for-hire companies like Uber and Lyft.

With little to no regulation governing app-based vehicle-for-hire companies, a committee Monday discussed the possibility of leaving regulatory questions to voters.

Council members had settled on inspections and insurance requirements for app-based ride-hailing companies until it was reopened for discussion after a ruling in Austin on Saturday.

Now Councilman John Crescimbeni suggests holding a voter referendum.

“I view Austin as a very progressive city — probably consisting of a demographic that I would think would marry up quite well with the (transportation network company) industry — and yet they rejected this proposition that was put on the ballot by the TNC industry,” Crescimbeni said.

Crescimbeni has been a fierce advocate for taxicab companies who say they shoulder an unfair regulatory burden. He’s in favor forcing these app-based companies to undergo the same background checks, vehicle inspections and carry the same level of commercial insurance cab drivers do.

But when the Austin city council passed stricter regulations, Uber and Lyft responded by mounting an $8 million campaign to get voters to side with their desire for fewer restrictions. That measure failed over the weekend and voters sided with the city council instead, reports NPR.

Now Uber and Lyft say they’re “pausing” operations in the city as they figure out where to go from here. 

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.