Charleston City Council approves transportation ordinance

Charleston City Council Tuesday approved an ordinance that allows taxis to increase their rates. It also put in place regulations for ride-hailing services such as Uber.

Charleston City Council on Tuesday approved a transportation ordinance that will require Uber drivers to purchase business licenses and allow taxis to raise their rates.

Council voted 10-2 in favor of the ordinance that will govern taxis and limousines, as well as the ride-hailing service Uber and other “transportation network companies” that use GPS-enabled apps to dispatch freelance drivers in personal vehicles. Councilmen James Lewis and Robert Mitchell were opposed.

Billy Guernier, Uber’s general manager, has said company representatives worked with the city for months as it crafted the new ordinance, but it can’t support the end product because of the business license requirement.

According to the city’s Revenue Collections Division, each Uber driver would have to purchase a license that costs $57.84 annually for the first $2,000 of income, and $3.40 for each additional $1,000 earned above that.

Geurnier said the move will make it harder for Uber to hire drivers and will drive up the costs for passengers.

Lewis and Mitchell said they opposed the plan because one of the rate increases allows taxi fares to double during late-night hours. That would have a devastating impact on lower-income workers who work at night, especially those in the food and beverage industries.

The ordinance initially allowed taxi fares to double between the hours of 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. But the hours for that provision were changed to between midnight and 5 a.m. in the final version.

Taxis also can increase their general rates. Instead of a $4 charge for the first two miles, drivers can charge $5. And the charge for each additional one-fifth of a mile would increase from 35 cents to 50 cents.

The ordinance will go into effect in 30 days.

Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.