Milton resident; owns Quincy-based Shore Transit and Yellow Cab taxicab companies, and Mass Quality Ride, Canton-based firm providing transportation for special needs students
Massachusetts should cap the number of ridesharing drivers. And it needs to do even more to address this new industry.
Capping ridesharing may alleviate clogged roads, which have caught the attention of public officials. It also will create a greater sense of parity between ridesharing and the taxi industry.
As the owner of two taxicab companies, I know firsthand that there is a huge disparity between the taxi industry and ridesharing alternatives such as Uber and Lyft.
Capping the number of ridesharing drivers is a first step in leveling the playing field. There are currently no restrictions in the number of rideshare drivers. Municipalities on the other hand do their own regulating, leading to potentially more Uber and Lyft drivers than cabs.
One reason cited for capping the number of drivers is reducing traffic congestion, particularly in the cities. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is reportedly considering hiking fees for ridesharing services as a means of traffic reduction.
This is what I think should also happen:
• Legislate true equality by requiring ridesharing drivers to adhere to the same standards as the taxi industry. Uber and Lyft drivers are not adequately regulated. All drivers should undergo stringent background checks that include fingerprinting; current rules do not require fingerprinting for ridesharing drivers. Boston began fingerprinting taxi drivers upon license renewal back in 2016, and many other major cities in the US conduct it as well.
• All ridesharing drivers should be required to conform to the same standards as their taxi-driving counterparts. State law requires that taxicabs must be commercially registered. That is not the case for ridesharing vehicles.
Regulating the number of drivers is a first step. But we should look at the bigger picture. A larger issue is safety and security. Every rider, whatever the means of transportation he/she selects, should feel assured that the driver has undergone a complete background check and is driving a vehicle that meets high safety standards.
We call upon the Massachusetts Legislature to take action. Yes, cap the number of drivers but also create an equal — and safe — playing field. Our passengers deserve no less.
Tanisha M. Sullivan
President of Boston branch, NAACP
Getting serious about congestion is important, but proposals to cap the number of rideshare cars ignore key facts related to access and opportunity. So what are the key facts?
First, rideshare companies, like Uber, help fill gaps in places that lack convenient access to mass transit. While the number of for-hire vehicles is growing in Massachusetts, many of those trips happen in neighborhoods that are underserved by mass transit and that traditional cab companies do not readily reach.
Anyone who has ever tried to hail a cab in Hyde Park or anywhere outside the downtown in Boston will tell you it is not easy. A cap will likely reduce service reliability in those areas that most need safe, reliable transportation, possibly having an adverse impact on the diversity of our neighborhoods.
Second, companies like Uber and Lyft have helped tens of thousands of everyday residents earn a living. Many of them drive part time. They earn extra money to pay for college or rising housing costs. Many more are first-generation immigrants looking for better opportunities. A cap will punish thousands of Massachusetts residents eager to make ends meet at a time when Boston and surrounding suburbs are more expensive than ever.
Third, rideshare companies have an important role to play in reducing personal car ownership and making local communities greener places. As the dependability of companies like Uber and Lyft increases, families may choose to have one car instead of two, or possibly no car at all. Fewer cars not only mean less congestion on the roads, but cleaner air for all of us to breathe. And as people migrate toward rideshare companies, the use of pooled rides will likely increase. Having the option to share a ride and its cost could be a win for lower-income customers and the environment, whereas a cap could stunt the shift away from personal car ownership.
There are smart solutions that would reduce congestion and benefit the environment. For example, we should continue to explore the idea of congestion pricing, which also invests in our mass transit system. But a cap has far too many adverse impacts.
This is an informal poll, not a scientific survey. Please vote only once.