City Official: ‘Let’s Talk About Uber Regulations’

City Councilor Bill Linehan filed for a hearing in regards to app-based livery services and how they operate in Boston.
Image via uber on Facebook

Image via uber on Facebook

Cambridge has been spending a lot of time talking about regulating on-demand taxi services like Uber and Lyft. Now, it looks like it’s Boston’s turn.

On Wednesday, City Council President Bill Linehan will call for a hearing to be scheduled to address transportation regulations for app-based livery options that are not micro-managed by the Boston Police Department’s Hackney Unit.

In a request filed this week with the City Council, Linehan wrote that “transportation applications such as Uber and Lyft have been operating within the city…for several years,” competing for a substantial share of the customer base trying to get around. But he argues these services have not been subject to the scrutiny of a city-run department for “consumer protection and public safety” reasons like their competitors.

“Transportation services such as Uber and Lyft are performing the same service as taxis and pedi-cabs,” Linehan wrote in his request for a discussion about possible regulations. Linehan’s proposal did not go into detail about what system he would ideally like to see put in place, but more is bound to be revealed if the City Council agrees to a hearing.

The Uber debate has been on Mayor Marty Walsh’s radar since he first took office, as cab drivers made their discontent with the lack of standards on the newcomers’ services known through protests and public outcry.

Members of the Boston Taxi Drivers Association, an affiliate of the United Steelworkers union that represents more than 1,400 cab drivers, have asked the city to even the playing field, and bring Uber and Lyft into compliance. Either that, or loosen up on the antiquated laws that bind cab operators to the pricey, and often corrupt, taxi medallion structure.

In mid July, Walsh announced that the city was “moving forward” on the issue by creating a special task force advisory committee consisting of taxi groups and companies like Lyft and Uber to examine the burgeoning tech-based industry, according to reports. 

Walsh has said while Boston has a number of effective methods of transportation that different populations like and use for different reasons, the city can’t “turn a blind eye to public safety concerns around unregulated modes of transportation.”

In saying that, he pointed out that “popular, effective” services that take “responsible” steps when serving their customer base should not be condemned, however.

“There is a balance,” he said.

The City Council meets Wednesday, July 30, at noon, at which point Linehan will state his case and request a future meeting with all parties involved in this ongoing discussion on innovative alternatives to traditional taxi services.


Steve Annear Steve Annear, Digital Writer at Boston Magazine sannear@bostonmagazine.com