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In the coming weeks, Uber, the smart phone app and luxury sedan service, will bring its uberX service to D.C., according to an email sent to a local cabbie from “The Uber DC Team.” “uberX is coming to DC!” declares the email’s subject line. But D.C. taxi chair Ron Linton says not so fast.
Under current D.C. regulations, the vehicles uberX intends to use – “small and mid-size cars and eco-friendly vehicles” – are only allowed under the taxi class of vehicles, not the sedan-class, which is how the company intends to register them. “The licensing and document requirements [will] be exactly the same on uberX as for UberBlack,” Uber said in its email. (UberBlack refers to the company’s black sedans which the D.C. Council determined can operate largely unregulated.)
“It would be allowing a taxi-[like] vehicle essentially to run unregulated against… a taxi that is regulated. That simply doesn’t make sense to me,” Linton told TheFightBack. “They’ve had no conversation with us. I don’t know what they’re trying to do. I’m simply telling you that under the regulations, the vehicles that I’ve seen listed that they propose to introduce as uberX with L tags, are not eligible for L tags,” Linton said.
Allowing uberX vehicles to operate as unregulated quasi-taxis is “going to put cab drivers out of business,” said Stanley Tapscott, a veteran cab driver and member of the D.C. Taxicab Commission. While the city is mandating cabbies pay for the significant costs associated with the Modern Taximeter System, Uber isn’t burdened with these expenses, said Tapscott.
Uber didn’t respond to TheFightBack’s request for comment. In the company’s email to the local cabbie it says the pricing for uberX is still being worked out, “However, we expect rates to be about 30% below UberBlack. This is in line with uberX rates in other cities such as Atlanta & Chicago.”
This isn’t the first time Uber has been at odds with the D.C. Taxicab Commission. Most recently, Uber objected to having to fully participate in the Modern Taximeter System and the company successfully lobbied the City Administrator’s office to pressure the commission to have the regulations changed. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick also bumped heads with D.C. council members last year when the council debated whether the company’s black sedans should be regulated.
* This piece was edited slightly since its initial posting.