The city plans to exempt Uber and Lyft drivers from local taxicab rules to resolve any questions over the legality of ride-sharing services in Lincoln.
“Ride-sharing is proving to be a safe, inexpensive and convenient option for users and a good income source for drivers,” said Mayor Chris Beutler as he announced the proposal to exempt ride-sharing companies from the city’s taxicab ordinance.
That ordinance is expected to have an Oct. 2 public hearing before the Lincoln City Council.
The city attorney’s office determined ride-sharing drivers are considered taxicab drivers under the city code, which makes them subject to regulatory requirements that include a written exam and a periodic medical exam.
“Instead of treating people who provide and use ride-sharing as law breakers, we decided to step back, make sure our residents were protected and then take action,” Beutler said.
Ride-sharing companies have been helpful as designated drivers, said Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister.
After downtown bars close, streams of ride-sharing drivers come in and pick up people. And on gamedays, people use ride-sharing drivers to go from parties to the game or someplace to watch the game, Bliemeister said.
They enhance safety in downtown Lincoln and for people who have been drinking, he said during a Thursday news conference.
There have been discussions with taxicab companies but no indication yet that they want the city to revisit its taxicab code, said City Attorney Jeff Kirkpatrick.
That could change. The mayor has indicated he is happy to talk about changes, Kirkpatrick said.
Data on how ride-sharing companies affect the taxi business is mixed. The Nebraska Public Service Commission has reported the number of cab rides has gone up in Omaha but down in Lincoln since ride-sharing became popular, Kirkpatrick said.
Consumer demand is demonstrating why we can exempt these companies from the rules, said Councilwoman Leirion Gaylor Baird.
The ride-sharing companies provide flexible job opportunities, help reduce traffic congestion and free up parking spaces downtown, as well as fulfill the role of designated driver, Gaylor Baird said.
"It is really cool to see a business-friendly piece of legislation" and a wonderful thing for a town that is growing to have ride-sharing opportunities, said Trent Fellers, who worked on the issue before he left the City Council last year.