Safety in Innovation

Kansas City’s reputation as an innovative, interesting city to live, work and play is catching fire.  

I’m a big fan of innovation and I love having so many interesting options on everything from entertainment to restaurants to transportation. That’s one of the reasons why I am so excited about our new streetcar, the smart kiosks and the wi-fi availability along the route in City Market.

I’m proud that we can offer residents and visitors alike such a creative way to explore our city.  But, when it comes to getting around our city, we also have a responsibility to ensure all of the options are safe ones.  

I wouldn’t dream of getting into a car with a complete stranger without some safeguards, and I don’t think our residents or visitors should have to do that either.  That’s why we have standards in place to ensure safe rides on our streetcar system, our bus lines and taxi cabs.  

Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), which use apps to offer customers rides with individual, independent drivers, have become increasingly popular in the past few years. Kansas City welcomes the additional, innovative transportation options they offer, as long as we can ensure those options are also safe rides for customers.  

Around this time last year, the City began to address that issue by passing an ordinance regulating TNCs. Since this was a new and evolving issue, the ordinance included a provision for review and amendment by the City, based on experience and knowledge gained during the first year.  That’s why we are revisiting this issue today— to help ensure a more efficient, effective licensing process and a safe ride for all customers. Here are some of the changes staff is proposing:

First, the amendment proposes transportation network companies be required to submit to a background check performed by the City.  TNCs currently perform the background checks through their own vendor, and they simply aren’t enough.  Regulated Industries has seen several applications where the TNC background check failed to uncover past felonies of driver applicants. Safety is not an area that should be compromised, and this is simply unacceptable. Therefore, Kansas City citizens and visitors can rest assured that a proper background check has been completed through this new requirement.

Second, Regulated Industries proposes that the driver orientation program be discontinued. That program was a 30 day window that allowed a potential driver to “try it before you buy it,” or in this case, to be a TNC driver for 30 days before going through the permitting process with the City. Instead, under the proposed amendment, a driver will receive a temporary 30-day sticker upon turning in an application, so any rider or city law enforcement will know the status of a driver at all times. Currently 36% of Uber drivers do not have a permit through the City. And the City has no way to know when the 30 day period begins and ends.

We want to offer many transportation options for residents and visitors to our wonderful City to enjoy a Royals game, visit City Market, check out a gallery in the Crossroads, listen to jazz in the 18th and Vine Museum, see a show at Starlight, shop on the Plaza or eat some barbecue.  We just want to ensure they have a safe ride.

Recent history of TNC around the country and here locally teach us that reasonable safety precautions are in the best interest of the public. We believe these proposed amendments will provide more safety without interrupting access to this transportation option.

Residents are encouraged to provide input on proposed changes to the City’s Safe Ride ordinance July 18 – Aug. 17 at www.kcmomentum.org, or by emailing Jim Ready, Regulated Industries Manager, at jim.ready@kcmo.org.

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