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Oklahoma City Council advances Uber, Lyft regulations after debate

Oklahoma City Council members are expected to make changes before a final vote next month.
by William Crum Published: August 26, 2014

Regulations for smartphone-friendly ride services such as Uber and Lyft appeared likely to survive after a two-hour public hearing Tuesday, but city council members said they would propose changes before a vote Sept. 9.

The Oklahoma City Council voted 7-0 to advance the proposal to a final hearing after listening to comments from about 20 citizens, including drivers wearing pink T-shirts with “lyft” in white letters across the front.

Mayor Mick Cornett excused himself from the discussion and vote because his son and daughter-in-law drive for Lyft.

Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer left early and missed the vote because she was leaving for a vacation.

The mayor’s daughter-in-law, Shayla Cornett, said working with San Francisco-based Lyft makes her feel like she’s a part of an “amazing” community of individuals who offer rides in their private cars to earn extra cash.

Cornett, 27, said she and her husband, Tristan, who is a film student, began driving for Lyft when the company began service in Oklahoma City in April, sharing a car to give rides.

She combines driving with a job at the Apple store and caring for their daughter, Fern, who is 2.

Taxi and limousine services have clamored for regulations since Uber, also based in San Francisco, introduced its UberX service nearly a year ago.

The proposed regulations would classify Lyft and Uber as “transportation network companies” and set oversight requirements intended to protect public safety.

Drivers would have to get permits, have their cars inspected and keep records.

The companies would have to get a business license, carry insurance and submit drivers to the same Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation background check required of taxi and limo drivers.

Accommodations would be made for Uber and Lyft, which differ from traditional cabs in that customers summon rides using a smartphone app.

Uber and Lyft collect the fare by charging the customer’s credit card, then pay drivers a percentage of the fare.

As the companies have rolled out service across the country, winning market share and rapidly gaining in popularity, cities have struggled to adapt regulations originally drafted for traditional taxi and limousine services.

Ward 7 Councilman John Pettis said he favored competition in the taxi business, but worried that residents who lack a smartphone or credit card — or who live in low-income neighborhoods — could be denied access to the new transportation options.

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by William Crum
OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman.
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