D.C. City Council Gives Uber a Lift Around Washington

D.C. City Council Gives Uber a Lift Around Washington
D.C. cab

D.C. cab

It was a big win for ridesharing companies this week as D.C. officials approved a bill to allow companies, such as Uber, to operate in Washington while imposing some regulations.

The bill requires drivers for smartphone-based, car-for-hire services to be 21 or older and pass background checks for criminal history, sex offenses and driving history.

Liability insurance also will be mandatory.

Democratic D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh tells the Associated Press that the bill ensures public safety and consumer protection without creating "artificial obstacles" for such services.

Taxi drivers protested the bill and have been against allowing Uber to operate in the nation's capital.

Earlier this year, taxi drivers staged protests over ridesharing companies by striking and driving around downtown’s Freedom Plaza. It was unclear if another strike would happen in the wake of this week’s decision.

Uber, meanwhile, was thrilled with the outcome, issuing a statement saying D.C. "has become a trailblazer in the transportation industry by embracing innovation."

Washington, D.C., has a variety of transportation options that include highly rated taxi services and limousine companies. Uber views themselves as just another option for Washingtonians and visitors.

How is a Taxi Different from Uber?

Before advancements in technology — specifically the smartphone — a company, such as Uber, would have had to operate as a taxicab company.

Instead of "hailing" a taxi down, riders these days can use an app on their smartphones to hire a driver, who, in most cases, is a private citizen using his or her own car.

One of the benefits of using a ridesharing company is no cash is ever exchanged. Payments are automatically handled through the app. The app allows passengers to track their route and estimated arrival time.

It also provides photos of the driver and users the opportunity to rate their experience.

This may sound similar to a taxi, but legally speaking, it all comes down to how you request your ride.

Taxi riders typically "flag" or "hail" taxis down on the streets, or they can call a company to arrange a pickup time.

Most taxis will have a pickup fee and then charge per mile, per minute of waiting time and sometimes an additional passenger fee. Tips of 15 to 20 percent also are standard.


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Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are powered by smartphone apps that allow riders to request a ride with a push of a couple of buttons. (Photo courtesy of Uber)
Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are powered by smartphone apps that allow riders to request a ride with a push of a couple of buttons. (Photo courtesy of Uber)

As traditional cab companies fight to level the playing field with rideshare companies, Uber ups the ante with $500 in free rides and rate cuts.

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