We need a statewide solution for Uber and Lyft

In the opening months of this year’s legislative session in Texas, there’s been ample debate about state versus local control.

When state or local leaders look to consider regulation of new technologies and services, we can all agree that they should be mindful of meeting consumers’ needs, driving investment and creating jobs. That’s good for every Texan.

Today, though, onerous and conflicting regulations are hobbling entrepreneurs, creating uncertainty in the marketplace, impeding innovation and — in the case of the debate over transportation network companies — reducing jobs and Texans’ transportation options.

Fans of apps like Uber and Lyft may find that the rules governing their operations in one city differ dramatically from those in a community down the street or across the state. That not only creates unnecessary confusion for consumers and drivers who use the apps but also chills and complicates efforts to bring this new technology — or other similar innovations or services — to more Texans across the state. And in some instances, it has forced these companies to cease operations in cities where they were already providing safe rides.

I’ve long been a proponent of forging compromise and pioneering solutions for many of our state’s most vexing problems, and congested roadways are clearly high on that list. Transportation network companies are an important part of a larger effort to reform and transform the state’s transportation system.

That’s why it’s time we brought clarity and consistency to regulations governing these new technologies.

Texas boasts a long-running tradition of embracing public policy that encourages competition, increases consumer choice and expands economic opportunity. House Bill 2440 is consistent with this successful Texas model. 

Transportation network companies’ technology can — if we create the right statewide climate — be transformational for both urban and rural communities alike. We should work to ensure that technology reaches more Texans, not limit its ability to serve our state.

This new technology, as a recent Mothers Against Drunk Driving study found, offers Texans a great option for safe rides home and could help reduce drunken driving. Transportation network companies are also increasing efficiency by giving Texans access to a wider range of options for getting from home to work, to entertainment, to school, to church and every point in between.

HB 2440 is a way for Texans’ locally elected state lawmakers to ensure that consistent, reasonable requirements and local concerns governing the technology are established and applied statewide.

We should embrace policy that creates clear standards for insurance and ensures that all current and future transportation network technologies fully protect drivers and riders. Background check requirements are extensive and clearly defined in the proposed legislation as well.

The tech economy in Texas is vibrant and growing. It’s an economic bright spot that’s producing cutting-edge improvements in Texans’ lives, from education to health care and energy production to transportation. Let’s make sure that Texas continues to flourish when this dynamic sector presents us with a new innovation that is benefiting riders, drivers and the marketplace. 

Over two dozen cities and states have adopted regulations that protect consumers, create jobs and provide much-needed transportation alternatives. We can’t afford to fall behind by creating an environment that limits choice and competition and risks stifling development of future technologies. By embracing clear policy at the state level governing transportation network companies, we’ll be taking local concerns and providing a strong and appropriate framework to ensure statewide access to an important part of our transportation system.

Disclosure: The Texas Association of Business and Uber Technologies are corporate sponsors of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Bill Hammond

Chief strategist, Texas Smart-On-Crime Coalition