Uber and taxis fight over level of regulation

By Katelyn Newman

Capital News Service

With standing room only, the battle over the ridesharing “Uber bill” began in the state Senate Finance committee Tuesday.

Sponsored by Sen. Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore, the bill would keep power in the hands of ridesharing companies to conduct their own drivers’ background checks and vehicle safety inspections rather than require state oversight.

It competes with a bill proposed by the state’s Public Service Commission that would hold companies like Uber and Lyft to the same standards that state taxi and limo drivers face.

Joined by fellow taxi operators, Baltimore Yellow Cab driver Andy Tedla, 62, said he opposes Ferguson’s bill because it gives ridesharing companies an unfair advantage with fewer regulations in the transportation market.

“I’ve been regulated for the last 23 years, it doesn’t bother me,” said Tedla. “We are not afraid of competition, but competition should be on the same playground.”

In response to opposition, Lyft driver John Morfaw, 54, said that these ridesharing companies enhance the free market for transportation.

“I get to move people around in a cost-effective way,” said Morfaw, who has worked for Lyft since November. “I really support (the bill) because they need to get qualified people to drive, move people around, and they should be in compliance with the law, too.”

Around 100 drivers and customers of the ridesharing companies came to Annapolis to show their support for the bill and the services of Uber and Lyft.

“It’s very convenient,” said Uber customer Jennifer Winfrey, 30, from Prince George’s County. “I’ve had experiences where waiting for a cab, it’s taken almost an hour just to get a cab ride home, where as with Uber it’s taken five, maybe 10 minutes at most.”