Chamber supports state-based solution to Uber

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Uber continues in Manchester, despite expiration of June 4 deadline.
Uber continues in Manchester, despite expiration of June 4 deadline.

MANCHESTER, NH – June 4 was the deadline for Uber to complete negotiations with the city, after the Board of Aldermen granted the app-based transport company a 30-day continuation to operate last month.

As of Thursday afternoon, City Clerk Matthew Normand said the city had not been contacted by Uber during the 30-day continuation, which also happened to mark the fifth-anniversary of the company’s launch.

Normand also said he  believes the city should go forward with a version of the proposed Transportation Network Company ordinances, as previously discussed.

“Regardless of what Uber decides, the city is better positioned to deal with this type of platform in the future,” Normand said. “I have spoken to the chairman of the Committee on Administration over the past two weeks and several members of the board seem receptive to that plan.  I also have spoken to ownership of all three local taxicab companies this week and we will be working together to update the current code.  These proposed amendments will also be brought forward to the committee in the near future.”

Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce CEO & President Michael Skelton, who has been an outspoken proponent of keeping Uber operational in the city, said the Chamber continues to be interested in helping to facilitate a negotiated agreement.

“The main sticking point was state background checks, and I believe it was Uber’s plan to assess if that was a requirement they could meet. As of today nothing has changed, except for the question of whether the city will enforce its vehicle-for-hire regulations,” Skelton said.

Skelton also said he supports a state-based solution in the form of umbrella legislation that covers ride sharing, as other traditional transportation so-called “disruptors” emerge, changing the definition and model of transportation services for the public.

A study bill has already passed and is expected to be signed by the governor at the end of the legislative session, Skelton said.

“It would provide an equal playing field across New Hampshire, which we think is the best most logical step going forward,” Skelton said.

“I think we have to step back and realize that Uber is not just a national company, but an international company operating in hundreds of cities and jurisdictions. They have to approach how they negotiate operations, keeping in mind how they are willing to negotiate in the future,” Skelton said. “I imagine they’re taking time in exploring every option.”

In the meantime, Skelton said, communities like Manchester should impose reasonable regulations for Uber, but also be sure they’re not disrupting a service, “which people clearly want, and which is good for the community.”

“We are asking the public through the Chamber’s Save Uber in Manchester Facebook page to do a few things, if they support it. First, let Uber know they have a strong base of customers and supporters here that wants them to remain in Manchester by Tweeting messages of support to @Uber_NH. And to continue to reach out to city officials to let them know you support ride-sharing, said Skelton, who is directing Uber supporters to a Chamber-based page for more information.

Other communities around the country are scrambling in much the same way to figure out how to regulate tech-based companies like Uber. In April the city of Portland, Or., launched a pilot program that allows for-hire car services to continue operating for three months under certain guidelines, including background checks for drivers, liability insurance for drivers, 24/7 operation, and “service performance measures” to accommodate disabled passengers. Part of Portland’s program includes allowing cab companies to adjust fares without regulation in order to match variable, on-demand pricing.

As for what if any action the city would take, if any, as of June 5, Normand said it wasn’t likely that anything would change.

“I don’t know that any action will take place specifically tomorrow, though the City will continue to enforce city ordinances, including Chapter 118, Vehicles for Hire.  I know much has been made about their technology and their approach to providing transportation for local residents and tourists differentiates themselves from a traditional taxi service, however, the City’s position – as repeatedly explained to Uber since last October – has been “great idea; seems easy for your customers to use, but it is still providing ‘call and demand’ transportation service, which is an activity currently regulated in Manchester,” Normand said.


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About Carol Robidoux 6468 Articles
Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!