Though it has had its share of controversy recently, the ride-hailing service Uber still has a presence in Mobile and city officials would like to continue to have control over it.
The Mobile City Council and Mayor Sandy Stimpson agreed to back a resolution in opposition of a state House bill that would give control of services like Uber over to the state’s Public Service Commission.
The bill would then collect any license fees, in this case $5,000 per year, from transportation network companies and wouldn’t allow cities to collect revenue. In essence, the bill would take revenue away from the cities.
At least two members of the local House delegation, Republican Reps. Chris Pringle and David Sessions, each said they’d vote against the legislation as currently written. Pringle, for instance, said he doesn’t understand what the bill would allow the PSC to control.
“I don’t know what they would regulate,” he said of the bill.
Pringle added passage of the bill would most likely mean hiring more state employees, which he didn’t think would be a popular idea.
“I don’t see that happening,” he said.
Sessions said he thinks the bill “has several issues,” including safety concerns.
“When you’re dealing with public transportation of any kind, you have to consider safety,” he said.
Sessions added at least two cities in the state — Mobile and Huntsville — already regulate Uber. He said it wouldn’t be proper to take away that control.
Uber, however, supports the statewide legislation. With more than 400 municipalities in the state, the company stated the current patchwork of “conflicting regulations” means some riders can receive rides while others can’t.
“Every day in Alabama, thousands of people depend on Uber for affordable transportation options and flexible work opportunities,” Uber Alabama General Manager Luke Marklin said in a statement. “With a statewide framework, even more Alabamians will benefit from a convenient ride at the tap of a button — and current riders and drivers will count on an even more reliable experience. We thank [state] Rep. [David] Faulkner for his leadership and commitment to ensuring everyone in the state benefits from innovation and new technologies.”
Uber spokeswoman Evangeline George added in an email message “There’s no need to have 400 different sets of rules for ride-sharing in Alabama — and 39 states across the country have passed similar statewide bills.”
Uber itself has been under intense national scrutiny because of a number of issues. For one, company CEO Travis Kalanick felt pressure for joining President Donald Trump’s business advisory council, according to media reports. The company also took heat from some who felt Uber drivers broke a New York City taxi strike in response to Trump’s first attempt at barring travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States.
The action led some users to reportedly delete the application from their phones, according to media reports.
Acting Chief of Staff Paul Wesch said the city has heard there may be interest from ride-hailing service Lyft to join the Mobile market, but there has been nothing official.