Hit the brakes and get the facts

The buzz around town over the past couple of weeks has been the supposed and manufactured controversy over Lyft’s entry into the Kansas City market.  Many have demanded to know, “how can the City oppose such an entrepreneurial concept when it’s trying to be the most entrepreneurial city in the nation?!”  Others have alleged that the City is in the back pocket of the taxi cab industry.  Let’s take a moment to hit the brakes and get the facts.

First, let me be clear.  The City has and will work with firms through our processes to gain compliance with our regulations. That’s called being innovative and entrepreneurial.  In fact, City staff members have been working with ridesharing companies to bring new technology and new services to our community for months now.  Lyft, however, didn’t make any contact with the City until the day they launched.  Just because complying with public safety regulations does not meet a company’s public relations/marketing timeline, that does not preclude their obligation to do so, nor does it allow us to waive our responsibilities because the concept is popular on Twitter.

Second, the City will not allow any firm to waltz into town with a business model that does not ensure public safety without taking measures to keep riders safe. That would be an affront to our duty to ensure public welfare. Would you really want to patronize a restaurant who hasn’t been properly inspected to protect you and your family against illness?  I, for one, would not want my family members to catch a ride with someone who may or may not have proper insurance if a wreck were to happen – and auto wrecks do happen.  I also wouldn’t want them to catch a ride from someone who hasn’t undergone a city-conducted background check to prove they aren’t a violent criminal.

We have been working with Uber and zTrip so that they can operate under our current regulations.  zTrip is operating legally and I’m hoping that Uber will choose to meet the necessary standards, which include background checks, proper driver’s license, and adequate insurance.  Some consider these unnecessary hoops that they must jump through.  I consider them reasonable safeguards for the citizens of our city.

This is not a case of the “big, bad City” out to set back entrepreneurs. This is a case where the City is willing to work with ridesharing companies in order to bring safe, innovative services to Kansas City.  When those companies are ready to work cooperatively with us to protect the safety of citizens, and they meet public safety regulations, we’ll be ready to give them a green light.

4 thoughts on “Hit the brakes and get the facts

  1. First, let me express my thanks to the mayor’s office for posting something about this so that concerned citizens can hear the city’s side, or possibly be made aware of the issue for the first time, in a public forum. I hope to see others’ left comments on a thread here but fear I won’t.

    Your piece, though eloquent and informative, does come off at times as a bit “Supermanny.” “Violent criminals?” Anyone who knows anything about bureaucracy understands that inspections and regulations need inspectors and regulators, equals manufactured need to government create jobs. Public safety is as much a bi-product of regulation as revenue is.

    I’ve been using Lyft since they launched and had considered becoming a driver.

    I’ve enjoyed the eye-opening conversations I’ve had with the drivers, about the nature of their business, how they came to be employed, what their relationship with their employer has consisted of, exactly how they were vetted, what is expected of them, why they looked into it in the first place, etc. I’ve also been getting where I needed to go for free for two weeks as is their launch promotion, all the while using an interface through my smart phone that makes the process seamless and fun to use. But more on the technology front later…

    All the drivers have spoken candidly to me about their positive experiences thus far, as well as the witch-hunt vibe that’s hung above some of them (manufactured and over-hyped or not.) I learned of some schlocky “news piece” that channel 5 did where they ambushed a driver with a cab driver posing as a client and conducted a screaming tirade interview of the unsuspecting Lyft driver, in truly professional journalistic fashion.

    I heard of a Lyft orientation meeting where supposedly two “headcases” posing as city council members “infiltrated” the meeting, sat through the entire session gathering data, only to stand up at the meeting’s conclusion, hoot and holler about how everyone there was “going to go to jail,” pick up a stack of informational pamphlets and throw them up in the air, scattering them about the room in a veil of mess before racing out the door. Admirable use of city employee time.

    I work at a restaurant downtown, having recently moved back to KC from the east coast, excited to see how this city has progressed over the last decade. Yesterday we had two out of town guests who asked if I would call a cab for them to get back to their hotel downtown. The guests had elected to stay in an historic downtown KCMO hotel. Great.

    I called them a cab through KCMO yellow cab and was told that it should be there in between five and 15 minutes. 23 minutes later the cab arrived, but not before our out of town guests had decided to walk back instead of continuing to wait. Embarrassing. Small fry.

    The Lyft application is an easy-to-use interface that lets you know what drivers are nearby and how long it will take them to get to your location. You get a face, a name and an image of the car. And in my experience it has been spot-on.

    Lyft drivers have expressed to me that the job is appealing because it works with their needs for part-time employment. My understanding, in discussion with six different drivers, is that they’ve all undergone background checks and they all carry a 1MM insurance policy to cover passengers in the event of an accident. They were also enjoying, through social networking, a community of engaged fellow drivers. Personally, I’ve yet to get a ride from anyone whom I could imagine as being a violent criminal, though you know they always say “He was such a keep to him self, generally courteous fellow…”

    The Kansas City Metro will benefit from ride sharing programs like Lyft and Uber operating here. It will become more of a “city.” I hope whatever is going on behind the scenes is truly progressive and amicable, for everyone involved.

    It’s ironic to me, though, that the city’s main concern for safety is on background checks for drivers of unregulated ride-share industries, rather than the reality that we’ve erected massive monuments to alcoholism downtown in a square block drinking district and expect everyone to drive there from Lee’s Summit and Leawood, party, then drive home, rather than risk catching a ride with Jeffrey Dahmer in a Nissan with transmission quirks…

    • Since my last reply obviously was censored to the point it was not published I’ll try a more subtle approach in addressing the Mayors statements mentioned above.

      Since this blog was published back in May, the city claims to be working with Uber and it’s drivers to become compliant with what the city determines to be required. However, there seems to be no resolutions, no memo’s from Regulated Industries or even the Finance Division on just how the city really intends on licensing Uber Drivers other then full fledged taxi drivers. Now being licensed as a taxi driver allows a person to stand in a marked taxi zone, but NOT Uber Drivers, Taxi Drivers are allowed to charge for additional passengers, NOT Uber Drivers, Taxi drivers pay Regulated Industries $300.00 per calender year for each vehicle, Uber Drivers $300.00 for ninety days or less of the remaining 2014 year. So let’s see is the city really wanting to work with Uber and it’s drivers? NO, it’s about delaying a final method of licensing what will become the new transportation model and making those that want to provide it pay out the rear end just so the city can make more money at the expense of Uber Drivers being charged with taxi violations and spending money on attorney fee’s, court appearances and court costs. So I ask again is the city really wanting to work with Uber and it’s drivers? Again that would have to be a NO!

  2. Well it’s all fine and dandy the city is willing to work with Uber, too bad the police department and certain Sargent’s choose to go rogue and make up their own laws and issue bogus tickets such in my case recently, while not actively driving for uber. It’s beyond obvious communication is lacking between city hall and the police department, that creates rogue cops that make up their own laws and causes private citizens to have to go to court and fight false crimes. For being an Uber driver, to be told I must carry my business license or permit with me 24/7 and produce it on demand is ridiculous. If I have to make a court appearance I’ll be suing the city, the Police department and the cop that falsely charged me with a crime I could not have committed. So words of wisdom to any private citizen, before you drop off or pick up a friend at Walmart or the movie theater you better have a taxi permit or you’ll be charged with running a taxi without a permit.

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