The City Council agreed today to hold a hearing on how to regulate Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing services.
Councilors Bill Linehan - who proposed the hearing - and Steve Murphy said it was time for regulation to protect public safety and out of fairness to existing medallion owners, who are subject to scrutiny by the police hackney division.
Younger councilors who actually use the services agreed considering regulatory issues makes sense, but said they don't want to do anything that would squelch innovation in the city. They were joined by Councilor Sal LaMattina, who said he and many other East Boston residents have become frequent Uber users because medallion cabbies often refuse to go anywhere near their neighborhood.
In addition to public safety, Linehan said he wants to ensure that the new wave of cars are properly insured and that they offer the same levels of service to the disabled as medallion cab companies.
Murphy said that currently, riders have no assurance the drivers they get through their smartphones have undergone any background checks or other safeguards. Not that he would necessarily know from experience, however, because the services rely on "all those apps and iPhones and all that other stuff I frankly don't understand all that well myself."
He noted that the city funded part of the South Boston convention center by issuing new cab medallions and that it was unfair to the holders of them to just let the new services come into town.
"We shouldn't have different standards just because a car is painted a different color," he said.
Councilor Matt O'Malley (Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury), however, said he has gotten only "exemplary service" when he's used Uber and Lyft and that the city should be doing whatever it can to encourage innovation.
Councilor Josh Zakim (Fenway, Back Bay, Mission Hill) said he's also a regular Uber user and that while he wants a fair system in Boston, he also wants one that recognizes the sort of innovation the new companies represent. At-large Councilor Michelle Wu also acknowledged being a regular Uber user.
LaMattina said that, in addition to himself and his East Boston constituents, his daughter is a regular user and he feels safe when she does, because everything is recorded.
Councilors Charles Yancey (Dorchester) and Tito Jackson (Roxbury) said that in addition to ride-share issues, the council should also consider whether it still makes sense for the police department - via its hackney division - to still regulate a key component of the city's transportation system. Jackson also says he wants to take a look at the 6% credit-card fee medallion cabbies are forced to pay - and that he wants to ensure that drivers for the new services are treated "humanely and well."