As Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick released some details of a plan to bring smartphone ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft under state regulation, a top representative of Boston taxi drivers called the Patrick plan far too little – and far too late.
"There has to be parity. You can't have two rideshare industries, one highly regulated, and the other completely unregulated," Donna Blythe-Shaw of the United Steelworkers/Boston Taxi Drivers Association said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. The union represents about 1,400 cab drivers, many of whom say they have lost 30 to 40 percent of their business to the new car-sharing plans.
As first reported in The Boston Globe Wednesday morning, Patrick is proposing to bring Uber and Lyft under state regulations that would mandate criminal background checks for all drivers, proof they hold car insurance, ban them from picking up anyone from a cab stand, and give the state Department of Public Utilities oversight of ride-sharing like it has over intercity buses.
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"These regulations lack a lot of substance, and I was quite surprised that the governor's office would put together such a minimal regulatory proposal for such a major operation," Blythe-Shaw said. "How are the drivers going to be vetted? What organization is going to vet them? Is it going to be the State Police?"
Uber, in a statement, said: "We applaud Governor Patrick and the administration for taking this step forward in formally recognizing ridesharing as a new and valuable transportation alternative in Massachusetts. We are in the process of reviewing the proposal now and are excited to work with the commonwealth to ensure continued access to safe, reliable rides and the jobs they create."
Worth noting: Patrick is floating the regulations when he has just 29 days left in office, and some of the key provisions, like expanded oversight powers for the DPU, would require legislative approval, which is essentially impossible to achieve before Gov.-elect Charles D. Baker Jr. takes over on Jan. 8.
With videographer Marc Jackson