As Uber expands in KC, city pushes to regulate its services

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Hitch a ride with the click of a button; that's the appeal of Uber, a ride-sharing smart phone app that's expanding in Kansas City.

Touting a tech-savvy business model, the company is an easy alternative to cabs, and as such, city leaders are pushing to regulate it.

The company launched in the city back in May and according to company reps, has grown each week. It's hired so many new drivers the average wait time for a ride is now under four minutes.

But the unique high-tech business model has created some waves, as some cities like Kansas City push to regulate Uber's services the same way they govern taxis and limos.

"The permitting is basically our way of having a chance to check them," said Chris Hernandez, Kansas City's communications director. "To make sure they've had a background check, to make sure they have a valid driver's license, to make sure they have insurance. And that is simply to enforce the public safety and make sure that you are protected when you summon that ride."

Uber already takes those safety steps on its own, but nonetheless has been cooperating with the city to obtain a business license and to license drivers to carry passengers.

Hernandez said it's an approach some of Uber's competitors, like Lyft, have not taken.

"They did not work with the city and they have not worked with the city," he said.

Lyft has argued it is not a transportation company that charges fees, but rather a ride matchmaking service that suggests riders pay donations. Thus, the company does not believe it should be regulated in the same manner as taxis or limos.

It's an argument they will use to battle it out with the city next month in court.

As for Uber, "We started talking to the city months before we arrived and really been just working closely on a process to make sure we're in full compliance," said Andy Hung, Uber's general manager for Kansas City.

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