Dallas Discusses Regulating Popular Car Service App

Dallas City Council calls for investigation into the popular car service Über before a decision is made

By Omar Villafranca and Ray Villeda
|  Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013  |  Updated 4:31 PM CDT
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The app, popular with college kids, young professionals and business travelers, allows users to summon a limo with the touch of a button. Users can pick a car or suv, punch in their destination and get a price estimate. Using your phones GPS, users can see the estimated time of the pickup and see which Über cars are closest to their location.

Omar Villafranca, NBC 5 News

The app, popular with college kids, young professionals and business travelers, allows users to summon a limo with the touch of a button. Users can pick a car or suv, punch in their destination and get a price estimate. Using your phones GPS, users can see the estimated time of the pickup and see which Über cars are closest to their location.

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The California-based tech company behind the popular car service phone app Über is struggling to stay afloat in the City of Dallas.  The company set up service in Dallas a year ago, and has ballooned its business, but may soon face city regulations that force them out of business, they say.

"Looking at January 2013 and where we are now, we've actually grown 500 percent in overall ridership, so we've been very successful here in Dallas," said Leandre Johns, Über's Dallas general manager.

The app, popular with college kids, young professionals and business travelers, allows users to summon a transportation vehicle with the touch of a button. Users can pick a car or SUV, punch in their destination and get a price estimate. Using the GPS on a smartphone, users can see the estimated time of the pickup and see which Über cars are closest to their location.

Über users rave about the service, but some Dallas city officials want to regulate it as a limo service. Johns said the company isn't a limo service.

"We do not own any cars, we do not employ any drivers. We simply partner with drivers that are regulated and licensed by the city," Johns said.

City councilmember Scott Griggs told NBC 5 that the city manager's office tried to put new rules in place without discussion that would affect Über. Griggs wants the proposed rules to go through the proper committees before its brought to a full council vote,

Some of the new rules would set a minimum price on what is considered a limousine-worthy car. Another rule would require customers to call 30 minutes before the designated pick-up time for a limousine. Johns said these new rules are directly aimed at Über.

"These don’t come out of the blue," Johns said. "They’re targeted. They’re targeted. These regulations would ultimately end up shutting us down."

In a statement released earlier this week, the city of Dallas said they want new businesses to flourish in the city, but that there were some concerns.

Part of the statement reads:

"The proposed ordinance does not prevent Über from operating in Dallas. It simply clarifies that Uber is a limousine company under the city’s ordinance and is subject to the city’s regulation of limousine companies. It is important for the public to be aware that if emerging companies like Über are not subject to the same regulation as other limousine and taxi services, the public might have no recourse should the vehicle be involved in an accident; the consumer experience a pay dispute; or any other consumer protection or safety issue. The proposed ordinance is intended to protect the consumers that enjoy this service."

Johns said the limos and drivers used by Über are already regulated, since the company only hires drivers working for authorized limo companies.

"They are licensed by the city, they are regulated by the city," Johns said. "They own their cars, they’re limo drivers that are professional drivers, again, regulated and licensed by the city. When they come to us, we’re verifying that information. We’re double checking that they have the license, we’re double checking their car for the decal that is appropriate for Dallas or DFW or Fort Worth.”

In terms of liability, Johns said if a car wreck were to happen involving an Uber driver, it's the limo driver's responsibility.

Despite more than 100 people showing up to Dallas City Hall Wednesday to voice their opinion on Über, the council tabled the motion that would have regulated the service..

An executive session was called, upon returning, and Mayor Mike Rawlings called for an investigation into the Item 5.

The city's transportation committee will look into Über, then brief the city council before any decision is made.

Upon announcing there would be no further discussion, there was a mass exodus as people who came to speak about the service, either against or in favor, left the city council chambers.

"Obviously, we’ll have Über representation, we’ll have every representative that we can possibly get that supports us to come out and speak'" Johns said Tuesday night.

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