KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It may determine the future of ridesharing in Kansas City; an ordinance passed by the Kansas City Council on Thursday will require ridesharing services to be regulated like the taxi cab industry.
Ridesharing service Uber’s management says if the ordinance is put into effect, it will pull out of Kansas City. The city's website does not yet list a date when the ordinance goes into effect. When FOX 4 asked what's next for the company, it said the ordinance will make it impossible to do business in KC, but wouldn't confirm Uber is leaving nor give a date when operations will cease.
It seems as if there might be a communication breakdown between Uber and the city. Uber tells FOX 4 the city ordinance will cost its drivers about $235, and require them to do seven different things at four different places, which will result in potential drivers walking away from the company.
“As a company we want to grow and thrive right here in this great city,” Uber General Manager Andy Hung said.
“They are welcome in Kansas City, we want them to be here,” city spokesperson Chris Hernandez said.
It's a good start, but after Uber and the city agree on that, the two sides disagree on most everything else. Hung says Uber ridesharing should not be held to the same ordinances as taxi cabs and limousines.
“It’s like the difference between say, Orbitz and United Airlines. We’re connecting riders to safe rides, and it’s a technology platform that facilitates that," Hung said.
City representatives say it is a public safety issue.
“We do see them as a transportation company, because what is happening is you are asking someone to drive you from point A to point B and you’re paying them for it. That is transportation,” Hernandez said.
Cody Estes is an Uber driver who drives part-time to supplement his income from his full-time job.
"I'd like to not pay it, but if the government is going to step in and have to put their hands in it, we don’t have a choice,” Estes said.
He says if Uber leaves Kansas City, that will be a public safety issue.
"I definitely think it helps with reducing the numbers of drunk drivers,” Estes said. “Instead of spending $20 to $30 on a cab ride just to get home, you’re spending five to 10 bucks and you’re home safe.”
The ordinance also requires Uber to pay an annual operating fee of $40,000. A city spokesperson says because the ordinance has passed, the city is dropping its federal lawsuit against ridesharing service Lyft, which is on board with this plan and is expected to resume service in Kansas City.
Uber provided FOX 4 with this statement:
"We're very disappointed with the City's decision. This anti-technology ordinance eliminates more than 1,000 jobs in Kansas City and creates nearly a dozen barriers to entry for small businesses. By trying to squeeze ridesharing into antiquated regulations, the City Council has effectively eliminated a safe and reliable transportation option, making Kansas City one of the few cities left in the nation without Uber."
Bill George, the CEO of Kansas City Transportation Group which operates Yellow Cab and 1010 Taxi, also offered a statement about the passage of the ordinance:
"I think the Mayor and City Council clearly laid out the issues and their position. I find it hard for any reasonable person that's heard both sides of the debate to not reach the same conclusion as the city."