By John Lynds
Transportation network companies (TNC) or ‘ride-share’ companies like Uber and Lyft have become popular transportation options for hundreds of residents living in Charlestown.
Young professionals, workers and residents out for an evening have used the convenience and cheapness of Uber and Lyft to get to and from Charlestown because a ride home is only a few taps away on a smart phone.
However, some have been clamoring for the ride share companies to be more regulated after several incidents of assaults on female riders.
At the beginning of the year, Boston Police issued a community alert throughout Boston and asked resident to exercise caution when utilizing transportation services, especially ride share businesses like Uber and Lyft, after three separate assaults on women over the course of one weekend.
Last week, Rep. Dan Ryan joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House to pass legislation that creates statewide regulations for the ‘ride share’ industry. The bill, which takes steps to improve public safety and protect consumers, will enable transportation network companies (TNCs) to continue to provide an innovative and valuable method of transportation for customers in the Commonwealth.
This legislation creates a “Ride for Hire Division,” overseen by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), that will be responsible for regulating these companies, such as Uber and Lyft. The bill creates a fair structure for TNC operations and protects the sector from overly onerous or haphazard regulations. TNCs applying for licensure must meet insurance, background check, pricing, and nondiscrimination standards.
“The house version of the Ride Share Bill is a very good first crack at a very complicated issue. The fact that no one got completely what they were look for, to me, is usually the sign of a very good bill. There will be changes for improvement before it becomes law,” said Ryan. “I fundamentally believe that government has a role in protecting existing industry and jobs from rapid changes. Chairman (Aaron) Michlewitz’s bill does this while also giving the Ride Share services a mechanism for clear expectations and oversight”.
The bill also creates criminal penalties for any misrepresentation of a driver’s identity.
This legislation adopts the Ride for Hire “National Compromise” insurance policy, which will help to level the play field for TNCs and other ride-for-hire vehicles. This framework requires TNCs to guarantee at least $1 million worth of coverage from the time a vehicle is en route to pick up a passenger until that passenger exits the vehicle. Insurance carriers also must be notified if vehicles are being used as TNCs.
Additionally, TNCs must also undergo two annual safety inspections: a standard passenger car inspection and a more comprehensive safety inspection.
Other provisions include a requirement for drivers to display decals on the front and back of a vehicle identifying it as a TNC vehicle when in use. The bill would prohibit surge pricing during weather-related emergencies. The current policy of preventing TNC drivers from picking up customers at taxicab stands, street hails, and Logan Airport would continue. The bill also extends that policy to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.
The bill now goes to the Senate