The Honolulu City Council is considering a measure to regulate ridesharing companies. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.
Bill 35 would establish additional regulations for ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft and eliminate surge charges. Uber operations manager, Tabitha Chow, says surge is being criticized as price gouging and that’s not accurate.
“I know there’s a headline about $210 of Uber price-gouging military members. I want to say, on the record, that is not true. That ride did not happen. It was not real. The highest priced ride we had that day was actually $150, which is well above the average price for Uber X.”
Chow also says passengers can choose not to pay the higher surge price before getting in the vehicle. But, Councilmember, Kymberly Pine, wants Chow to provide proof that the incident did not happen.
“We have evidence of screenshots that your company wanted to charge over $200 to service men and women that just got off a ship. So, you’re saying that didn’t happen, actually, because they chose not to take it. So, where’s the evidence that it didn’t really happen, actually.”
Chow says there were 700 rides that day, 8 times the average amount. She also says surge is based on an algorithm to motivate drivers during non-peak hours.
“Oftentimes you’ll see something like surge at like maybe 3 o’clock in the morning in downtown or Waikiki and that’s really because it’s not an optimal time for someone to want to go out and drive. What you need to do is to incentivize that person to drive on the road so that person who really needs a ride can get home safely.”
Uber and Lyft drivers testifying in opposition of Bill 35 outnumbered supporters nearly 4-to-one. But, Robert DeLuz, owner of Robert’s Taxi, says a uniform fare rate for all private companies is fair.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years, okay. When I started this we got paid a dollar and twenty a mile. We’re up to $3.60 a mile now. Tabitha Chow says that they’re 40 percent lower. Okay, that’s fine. So, if they’re 40 percent lower, if they come up to our wages, they’ll be making more money. They should be able to survive on what we make.”
Bill 35 would also require Uber and Lyft to register with the City’s Department of Customer Services and certify their drivers based on 3rd party national criminal and sex-offender background checks, traffic violation checks and licensed physician medical clearances. Lynda Kerhaghan is an Uber and Lyft driver and disabled Army veteran.
“What if my disabilities were to take me out. I already served my time. Why take me out again. I’m trying to give back to my community.”
Uber and Lyft would also certify that drivers have proof of insurance and require permanent stickers on their vehicles to identify them.
The full City Council voted to advance the measure for a public hearing before the Budget Committee, May 23rd. Wayne Yoshioka,