Ridesharing choices must be protected

Uber supports rules that support safety and innovation

UBER IS A technology platform that allows people in Massachusetts, and in more than 310 cities worldwide, to find rides from available drivers. In many of these cities, Uber offers a ridesharing service called uberX, where drivers use their personal cars to pick up passengers.

This type of peer-to-peer transportation system, comprised largely of part-time drivers, has expanded opportunities for consumers, bolstered incomes for thousands of drivers, and broadened transportation options to supplement the MBTA and traditional taxi services.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s legislation proposes a common-sense regulatory system for ridesharing in Massachusetts, providing the Legislature an opportunity to ensure that the Commonwealth is home to an innovative transportation ecosystem, as well as robust consumer protections for a new and growing industry. This legislation would help protect both the livelihoods of thousands of drivers and the transportation options of hundreds of thousands of riders, while also offering a real alternative to the monopoly enshrined by the archaic taxi medallion system used in some Massachusetts cities.

Uber

After considering input from the public and other stakeholders last December, then-Gov. Deval Patrick issued temporary ridesharing rules for transportation network companies, or TNCs, such as Uber. The Patrick administration was committed to supporting both public safety and technological innovation to ensure that the state would benefit from the new opportunities available. Accordingly, the plan requires transportation network companies to maintain liability insurance and perform background checks on drivers, and we fully support these provisions.

Massachusetts is not the only state that has produced new regulations for ridesharing—an industry that did not exist just over five years ago. In less than two years, nearly 50 jurisdictions around the country have passed new laws to account for TNCs. From California to Illinois, from Dallas to Washington, DC, lawmakers have heeded the calls of their constituents and enacted common-sense legislation that gives people the freedom to earn a flexible living and provides them access to a safe way to get around.

But while Patrick’s rules for ridesharing have provided temporary clarity for Massachusetts, we firmly believe that a long-term solution must be established to protect these choices for future generations. Fortunately, Baker’s proposed legislation creates a regulatory framework that ensures Massachusetts can continue to take advantage of transportation network platforms and protect both riders and drivers. We know that no business can be successful without meeting the test for public accountability, and so we welcome this chance to continue working with elected officials to see statewide regulations put in place.

We strongly support the language referring to both insurance standards and rigorous driver background checks, which we already provide and perform, respectively. Importantly, our current background check process is more rigorous than what is required for Boston taxis by covering a longer period of time, and current Boston taxi drivers who apply to partner with Uber often fail the test. Furthermore, our commercial liability insurance provides $1 million of primary coverage, which is 50 times the amount offered during a trip in most taxis.

While others will try to instill fear in their efforts to protect the status quo, we’re focused on seeing the passage of rules that make sense for a modern Massachusetts and truly address the need for innovation, public safety, and choice for riders and drivers. Moreover, we’re by no means alone in our call for enhanced regulations to support transportation network companies in Massachusetts. Within two weeks of Baker’s bill being proposed, our petition [http://petition.uber.org/mass] garnered more than 32,000 signatures in support of statewide ridesharing regulations, which is just a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of riders who use Uber in Massachusetts every day. When petition signers were asked why they support Uber, the most commonly repeated terms were safety, reliability, and convenience.

For every single safe ride requested via Uber, there is also a driver using our app and providing that ride to earn an honest living. More than 10,000 drivers have partnered with us to take advantage of this entirely new income opportunity, which often yields earnings greater than $20 per hour. From retirees to students to single parents to former taxi drivers, our partners are as diverse as Boston’s own population. Because drivers choose when and where to work, the Uber platform provides them the opportunity to flexibly earn extra income while utilizing their own assets, all without having to pay for the privilege to drive by leasing a medallion—as many would have under the existing Boston taxi system. In what other line of work can you press a button to start earning and tap that button again when you feel like heading home? Imagine the freedom that gives people to take care of their families, to pursue other passions, and to work when is best for them.

Massachusetts and Boston’s continued adoption of Uber has been staggering, and speaks as testament to the appetite for innovation that lives in the state. In fact, no city in the nation has embraced Uber more than Greater Boston, as a greater proportion of residents use Uber than in any other American city.

We take tremendous pride in the role our company has played in transforming one of America’s oldest cities in a short period of time, and we’re dedicated to finding new and creative ways to leverage our technology to better serve our users and improve the lives and communities of riders and drivers in Massachusetts. In the past year, we’ve partnered with Harvard Medical School, Goodwill International, and the American Red Cross to help people order flu shots, donate their clothing, or support disaster relief efforts, all through the Uber app. Massachusetts has always supported these kinds of innovations, and at Uber we’re only just getting started.

We believe the market for moving people from place to place is rapidly changing and expanding, which is exactly why the Commonwealth’s lawmakers must work to pass comprehensive regulations to ensure this pie can continue to grow and the state’s transportation system can continue to evolve. We look forward to working with the governor and the Legislature in creating and adopting regulations that ensure competition and innovation in the market, preserve transportation and economic choice for thousands of drivers and riders, and provide safe, reliable, and convenient transportation for Massachusetts residents and visitors for years to come.

Cathy Zhou is Uber’s general manager for Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

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“Uber is a transportation outlaw” — Click here to read response from Massachusetts taxi industry.