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Could this bill bring Uber and Lyft to Alexandria?


March 28, 2018
By Jeff Matthews
Originally Posted on The Town Talk

A bill that would create a statewide framework for ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft to operate in Louisiana is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives.

House Speaker Taylor Barras announced the bill Wednesday. He said it will keep people safe, create more economic opportunities and expand access to reliable transportation.

Uber and Lyft operate in several markets in Louisiana, but have not approached Alexandria or Pineville to pass an ordinance allowing the companies to operate here, according to officials with both cities. 

A spokesperson for Uber told The Town Talk recently that statewide regulations would help the company expand to other parts of Louisiana.

“It is time to pass statewide ridesharing legislation to ensure that all of Louisiana has access to transportation options and job opportunities at the tap of a button,” said Barras, R-New Iberia. “Currently, Louisiana is one of five states that has yet to pass such legislation and the longer we wait, the more severely it hurts our residents, tourists and businesses.” 

“We should be doing everything possible to ensure that all Louisianans have access to affordable and reliable methods of transportation,” said Rep. Jeff Hall, D-Alexandria.  “Ridesharing gives Louisianans more transportation options — from low-income families who lack access to a car to students who need safe rides home late at night to seniors who need rides to their doctors.”

The bill would establish one set of rules for the operation of Transportation Network Companies like Uber and Lyft in Louisiana, replacing existing local regulations that allow them to opperate in individual markets.

The bill requires background screening standards for TNC drivers and includes consumer protection provisions such as fare transparency, electronic receipts and ease of identification of TNC vehicles and drivers.

Last year, the Louisiana House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a similar bill by a vote of 79 to 12, but it was not given a vote in the Senate.   

Uber currently operates in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Lafayette and Monroe. Lyft operates in all five of those cities, plus Lake Charles.

A spokesperson from Uber recently told the Town Talk that expansion in Louisiana is being held back because the state does not have uniform regulations allowing ridesharing services to operate.

"A statewide framework for ridesharing in Louisiana — just as 45 states have passed — would allow Uber to bring its access to safe rides and flexible work opportunities to more communities throughout the state, like Alexandria," said Uber spokesperson Evangeline George.

Because there isn't a statewide set of regulations for companies like Uber and Lyft — which connect mostly part-time drivers using their personal vehicles via an app with people looking for rides — they need local ordinances to operate.

That's a problem, George said, when drivers potentially travel between jurisdictions, which might happen when shuttling passengers to New Orleans from one of its suburbs, or when going from Pineville to Alexandria.

Driving from one municipality with one set of rules to another with a different set creates confusion and is hard for drivers to manage, she said.

“Whenever possible, we owe it to the people of Louisiana to let the free market work,” said Stephen Waguespack, President and CEO of LABI. “Expanding ridesharing in Louisiana is a win/win that will put consumers in control and boost local economies.”

“The launch of ridesharing in Monroe brought new opportunities for our residents — and those opportunities should not stop at city limits,” said Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo.  “I am proud to support a statewide framework for ridesharing because all Louisiana residents should be able to access these services easily and simply.”