City builds ‘some consensus’ with Uber, taxis

The ride-hailing service Uber began operating in Charleston last summmer.

After eight months of conflicts between Uber and traditional taxi services, Charleston officials may have found a way for the rival businesses to coexist.

Instead of just creating a new set of rules for Uber, a city transportation committee has decided to take a “separate but equal” type of approach.

Charleston City Councilman Bill Moody, chairman of the committee, said work is underway to rewrite all ordinances regulating taxis and limousines to include new rules for Uber. A goal is ensure all transportation services are treated fairly.

Some rules will be added, Moody said, while some policies that apply to taxis and limousines need to be “deregulated.”

“I don’t know that we really need to be going in and inspecting their vehicles, you know, let the market decide all of that,” he said.

The committee is also considering giving taxis more freedom to charge their own rates, he added, but the specifics of that have not been discussed.

At a meeting Thursday to deliberate the ordinance, representatives from Uber and taxi and limousine companies were allowed to weigh in and “added a lot to what we’re trying to do,” Moody said.

“I think everybody has had a seat at the table, everybody has given their input,” he said. “I don’t know that they’ll all agree with everything, but I think we’re starting to build some consensus.”

Jerry Crosby, vice president of Yellow Cab of Charleston, has been heavily involved in this process. He said he agreed with Moody.

“I think they’re doing a great job here in Charleston, basically labeling Uber as a ‘transportation network company,’ but more importantly, they are treating every service as a motor vehicle carrier,” he said.

Crosby added that a bill proposed in the General Assembly to create statewide rules for Uber is flawed because it doesn’t include the same requirements for taxis and limousines.

Moody said, “Whatever the state does ... I think they could learn a lot from what we’re trying to do.”

The committee meets again Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. in the first-floor conference room of City Hall at 80 Broad St. Moody said he expects to wrap up discussions about the ordinance and to review the final draft on Feb. 23.

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail