City council considers Uber regulations


Mary Mural-Sizemore, whose son owns Porter’s Taxi, voices her concerns with Uber at the Kent City Council meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015. Delon White, Uber’s general manager of Northeast Ohio, sits on the left.

Emily Mills

Kent City Council authorized the city’s law director to draft a preliminary code regulating Uber and other Transportation Network Services (TNS) providers at its meeting Wednesday night.

The council is considering a separate code for Uber, which has been in Kent since 2014, because it believes there are differences between TNS providers and taxi companies, which in Kent includes Porter’s Taxi and 1 Fast Transport.

The central difference is taxis own their own vehicles and employ its workers while Uber does not own vehicles — they belong to the people who drive for the company, said Delon White, Uber’s general manager for Northeast Ohio.

Another difference comes with regulations. The Kent Police Department regulates taxi companies licensing and fares, said Mary Mural-Sizemore, a Kent resident whose son owns Porter’s Taxi.

In addition, Uber does not allow on-street hailing of vehicles like taxis do; everything is done through the app, including payment.

The potential code, which is similar to ordinances in Cincinnati, includes a $100 annual registration fee of the parent company with the city; insurance coverage for all Uber rides up to $1 million (which Uber requires); registration of drivers with the city, including name, address, vehicle description and a copy of the driver’s license; and a background check for drivers.

The code also includes requirements for annual vehicle inspections, stickers displayed in the windows of Uber cars and what kinds of cars Uber can utilize.

The city would also require the TNS provider to text the driver’s name and photo as well as fare to the customer before being picked up, as well as keeping a copy of all fares for one year and a copy of ride share history submitted every quarter for income tax purposes.

City Council considers Uber regulations from on Vimeo.

Police Chief Michelle Lee said she did not find any problems in the potential regulations.

“Our main concern is the safety and of the passengers as well because bad things can happen to good people, and good people can be drivers or passengers,” she said. “I think this adequately covers the safety aspect of it…We’ve had our problems with cab companies in the past. I’m sure we’ll probably have our share of problems with Uber drivers and passengers as well.”

Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer from Ward 5 said she does not believe taxi companies and Transportation Network Service providers, such as Uber, need two separate regulations as they are both providing the same service.

White said hundreds of drivers provide thousands of rides each week in Kent, and it is most popular at times before people go out and after the bars downtown close.

“We’re really excited to see (the) demand in Kent,” he said.

Representatives from local taxicab companies voiced their concerns about both Uber and the potential regulations.

Mural-Sizemore said Uber is an “extreme safety threat.”

“Uber sounds wonderful, but they are looking at it as a technical point of view, and not a people service,” she said. “It’s an app. We get it…You’re letting somebody from outside come in and take over.”

Ryan McMann, a Kent resident and Uber driver, said he believes Uber has been a good thing for the city.

“The city of Kent is a much safer place because of Uber,” he said. “It keeps intoxicated people off the roads.”

White said although Uber and taxis are both providing the same service in the same market, it is possible for the two to coexist.

“It’s creating more choice,” he said. “It’s getting people to make smarter decisions, especially when it comes to drinking and driving.”

The council also approved a new two-year $60,000-contract with Main Street Kent with the option for one-year renewals and continued its discussion of options for sidewalk snow removal, including potentially using an independent contractor.

Emily Mills is the managing editor of The Kent Stater, and Allie Johnson is a city reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact Emily at [email protected] and Allie at [email protected].