DES MOINES, Iowa - California-based transportation service, Uber, launched in Des Moines in September, to city officials' dismay, and now a proposed city ordinance directed at the company is stirring opposition.
The city's proposed ordinance is expected to make its way in front of city council next month, and applies most of the same regulations to the ride-share service that cab and limousine companies are held to. Uber representatives say that isn't fair, because the company already has its own procedures and regulations for its drivers.
"I think the ordinance is a good first step, in the sense that it does recognize that the transportation network company-model - the Uber ride-sharing model - is different from a taxi model," said Pooneet Kant, the Midwest regional general manager for expansion at Uber. "However, as written, the ordinance is simply the most restrictive ordinance we've seen throughout the country. And so we have a number of issues that would make it very difficult, or impossible, to do business in Des Moines."
The ride-share service works like this: a mobile app connects riders with drivers who use their personal vehicles, with payment occurring over the smartphone app. The company requires background checks and a $1 million liability insurance policy for all its drivers; that insurance kicks in from the minute a driver accepts a ride request to the minute they drop the customer off at their destination.
The proposed city ordinance, however, tacks on its own regulations on top of what Uber already requires of its drivers; these Des Moines Uber drivers would have to obtain a Class D chauffeur license, perform quarterly vehicle inspections and apply for a city council-approved local certificate to operate. In addition, proof of an extensive background check, along with a $750,000 liability insurance policy would also be required. Uber officials argue these extra requirements - especially the insurance policy - are unnecessary and will stifle their ability to compete.
A draft of the ordinance was sent to stakeholders - including local cab and limousine companies, as well as Uber - for review, and all are invited to a public meeting Wednesday night at 5 p.m., held at the downtown library, to discuss the proposition. City staff and officials will also be available at the meeting to address the public's questions and concerns. City Councilwoman Christine Hensley says she isn't against Uber existing in Des Moines - but she does want them to respect the law.
"I would love to have Uber here, but a couple of thoughts on that: They started off on the wrong foot, they need to correct that," she said. "Number two: They need to be willing to sit down and work with us, they're completely against everything that's been proposed."
Members of the public are expected to turn out a decent crowd to this meeting; the Downtown Neighbors Association tweeted a "Save Uber" invitation to its followers Wednesday morning.