Here's how Newark wants to regulate Uber drivers

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on March 15, 2016

The Uber app is seen on a smartphone past cabs waiting for clients near the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain in 2014. Newark is crafting legislation that would regulate the company and other car-hailing services within its borders.

 

NEWARK — It appears the city may be on its way toward resolving its more than month-old stalemate with Uber and other car-hailing services.

Mayor Ras Baraka's administration has begun crafting amendments to a city ordinance that would regulate drivers working for the services much the same way it does their yellow cab counterparts.

A draft copy of the legislation would require them to pay a $750 annual license fee, submit to drug testing and background checks and pass a vehicle inspection every two years. A final version of the changes could be passed by the City Council as early as next month.

The move marks the latest chapter in a battle that dates back to February, when the city sent California-based Uber a letter warning that drivers were violating city statues, and any caught operating at Newark Penn Station or Newark Liberty International Airport would be ticketed and towed.

Baraka has insisted that the city was merely trying to create parity between its cab drivers, which must apply and pay for permits to operate, and their new competitors.

Uber has remained defiant, saying it would reimburse its drivers for any fines or towing fees incurred as a result of the crackdown. In a statement, company spokesman Craig Ewer called the new proposal an indication that Baraka "cares more about pleasing his taxi donors than doing what’s best for Newark residents."

"There is no reason why drivers should be subject to a patchwork of varying municipal regulations, especially when so many trips take place across city lines," he said. "New Jersey needs modern, statewide regulations for ridesharing as soon as possible.

Unions representing taxi drivers have been lobbying the state to regulate car-hailing services since they rose to prominence in cities around the country over recent years, though no such measures have been passed.

Hector Corchado, a lobbyist representing the drivers in their fight, said he was glad to see Newark taking action where state legislators have not.

"This is something that we've been asking even the state for well over a year already, just to give us the opportunity to have a level playing field," he said.

"Looking at how long it took. I'm glad (the city) is taking the first step."

New regulations would also help to ease tensions between the city and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which has refused to assist with enforcing any ban at the airport.

A draft version of the ordinance was introduced to the City Council on Tuesday, and while its specifics had yet to be ironed out, many expressed support for the spirit of the measure.

"I believe if we have the Taxi Commission and the taxi drivers in Newark abiding by some regulations, everyone should be abiding by them and governed by the same regulations," said At-Large Councilman Carlos Gonzalez.

Council President Mildred Crump echoed the sentiment, saying the city should also benefit from the new wave of businesses operating within its borders.

"The city doesn't make any money, not a dime, from these networks," she said.

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