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Dallas Will Let in Uber After All

DALLAS (CN) - After initially trying to ban Uber, Dallas on Wednesday approved a new transportation-for-hire law that legalizes the ride-sharing service.

The Dallas City Council approved the measure before a standing-room-only audience at City Hall.

Critics said the new regulations do not require adequate insurance coverage, drug testing or complete background checks.

The new Chapter 47A of the City Code allows consumers to select the type of transportation for hire they prefer and acknowledges ride-sharing apps as "a viable component of the public transportation system."

The ordinance will take effect on April 30, 2015.

The about-face came 16 months after City Manager A.C. Gonzalez tried to ban Uber at the behest of tax cab companies. Gonzalez later apologized for his handling of the matter and for not informing the council of his plans sooner.

Dallas spokesperson Sana Syed said the new regulations will protect the public and provide "a level playing field between cabs."

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings urged the transportation-for-hire drivers in attendance to "help our city grow" because "you will grow, too."

Jack Bewley, the owner of at least eight taxicab operators in the area, warned the council Tuesday against giving the "dangerous new transportation technologies free rein in our city."

Bewley cited the alleged rape of a young woman in New Delhi, India, by an Uber driver on last week.

"The driver, who had previously been imprisoned on a rape charge, had not been given a full background check, had not been licensed to drive a for-hire car and did not even have verified contact information on file with Uber," Bewley said in a letter to the city. "The man was captured solely because his victim was able to take a picture of the car as he drove away. Uber was of no help to the police. And New Delhi police found that a GPS system Uber claims tracks all its cars and drivers essentially didn't exist."

Tougher standards including basic drug testing were "inexplicably" removed as the new ordinance evolved, Bewley added.

Bewley was sued in 2012 by smaller taxicab operators who alleged federal antitrust violations, but the suit was dropped in February this year as the cabbies focused their efforts on fighting Uber and Lyft. Attorneys for Association of Taxicab Operators USA and the operators of Starcab, United Cab, Alamo Cab and Ambassador Cab Co. said at the time that it did not make sense for them to fight Bewley and the ride-sharers at the same time, when their interests were aligned.

"World peace happens when the enemy comes out of the sky," attorney Kelly Hollingsworth said at the time.

Uber general manager Leandre Johns said the company appreciates Dallas's "willingness" to include it in the city's transportation system.

"However, the real lift will be ensuring the intent of the legislation is properly implemented so drivers aren't encumbered with onerous, redundant and expensive onboarding steps that would discourage a driver looking to earn some extra money on the side," Johns said. "As they establish the permitting process, I urge city officials to ask themselves whether the proposed rules make sense for the single mom looking to support her family while the kids are at school or the military spouse looking for a flexible, transferrable job."

Uber is ready to work with Dallas officials to "streamline" the process to provide rider access, Johns said.

"We applaud the city for recognizing the tremendous value Uber provides to consumers and the job opportunities for drivers, and we're optimistic the implementation of the regulations will reflect this as well," he said.

Follow @davejourno
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