More Meetings About Uber’s Operations to Be Held in Cambridge

Until then, it's 'business as usual.'

Image via uber on Facebook

Image via uber on Facebook

The battle over Uber’s business operations is taking a back seat as Cambridge officials craft a new set of proposed regulations, and prepare for additional public hearings on the matter.

Andrea Jackson, chairwoman of the city’s License Commission, said the department’s executive director would do a “complete rewrite” of a proposal floated by the city earlier this month that set off a heated debate between fans of Uber’s on-demand car services, and drivers from the taxi industry that are under strict guidelines regulated by lawmakers.

“We are going to be looking to see what other states and cities have done [with services like Uber], and it will essentially be a complete rewrite of the earlier draft,” said Jackson. “The first draft was essentially just that. It was, ‘hey, let’s have a discussion about it, what do you think.’”

People that support and frequently use Uber and other apps that buck the taxi trend weren’t shy when expressing their feelings about the first proposed draft that came out just weeks ago. At a hearing on June 17, dozens of people crammed into a meeting hall in Cambridge and decried the city’s attempt at putting forth a document that, if passed, would have curbed the app-based company’s operations by making them adhere to the same rules and regulations as the taxicab industry.

After the intense public input and subsequent social media outrage, Jackson said a new proposal would be put together, this time taking into account the immense support that services like Uber have in Cambridge and beyond.

“The executive director will take a stab at doing another draft, and she will send it to the board asking for comment,” said Jackson.

That draft, once complete, will be followed by a series of public hearings possibly in the fall. Residents will have a chance to weigh in and offer additional commentary. Jackson said she didn’t want to put a number on how many meetings it could take to hammer out a final proposal. “It could be one, and everyone’s in love with it—I doubt it—and it could be as many as five,” she said.

She said the main sticking point this time around would be to not “stifle innovation,” which was clearly noted in an announcement sent out by the commission over the weekend.

Jackson said the rewrite won’t be focused on necessarily bringing Uber down to the taxicab level, and will likely include language that will put cab operators “on notice.”

“Competition is here,” she said in a statement sent out to the community. “If they hope to remain a viable choice with consumers, they will need to carefully examine their profession. It is clear to me that the public deserves transportation options that provide a safe ride, a clean vehicle, a courteous driver, and the ability to pay by credit card.”

She told Boston the reality of it is that “people aren’t picking up a phone and calling a taxi,” and the city needs to keep that in mind. “Those days are long gone. People are using their smartphones,” she said.

Jackson’s biggest concern overall is making sure livery and taxi services in Cambridge are safer, without stomping out travel options for residents and visitors. “I would like to see a common ground, but don’t know we will ever achieve that. This is my opinion, and I can’t speak for the other commissioners—I’m more concerned for the public safety aspect. I don’t think it’s our place to dictate what people use.”