Local cab companies challenge potential renew of Uber

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Many people would benefit from the availability of Uber in Alaska, but before they can legally come back to Alaska, certain legislation must pass. Photo credit: Young Kim

A potential renew of Uber pushed by assemblyman Bill Evans has left local cab companies concerned how business will keep up. Evans filed an ordinance last week that contracts regulations for local ride-booking companies including Uber, Lyft and Anchorage taxi-cab services.

Uber briefly operated in Anchorage in 2014 but the State of Alaska ceased operations of the ride-sharing service for failing to comply with the law. Local taxi services do not follow the same regulations as Uber and similar ride-booking companies, leaving Anchorage cab companies worried how competition will affect future business.

Michael Thompson, president of checker cab in Anchorage, says the uneven regulations between local companies and Uber create an unfair environment for ride-booking in the city.

“If Uber had to follow the same exact rules that we do, I would be fine with them coming back up here…Or if we were allowed to follow the same rules as Uber does, I would be fine with it. We’re both taxi companies but they get a pretty big advantage with the way the rules are set up,” Thompson said.

Thompson mentioned some of the regulations that vary between Uber and local companies including mandatory inspections every three to six months, federal background checks and having a camera in the vehicle at all times. These are all rules that local taxi services are required to follow, while Uber is not.

Those that are employed by Anchorage cab companies feel uncertain about Uber coming back without having to operate by the same guidelines.

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“It’s going to take business away. The economy is kind of on the downhill right now, the way the city and state has been losing jobs like crazy, we’ve been seeing a decline in business. Adding another transportation company to share the same amount of business is going to hurt,” Thompson said.

A comparison of Uber versus local ride-booking companies is a topic of conversation among supporters of the renew. The convenience of Uber’s smartphone app, ride costs and modernized cruising are just some of the benefits of choosing to ride with Uber instead of calling a taxi.

Fatir Dhillon, a mechanical engineering major at UAA, is a big fan of Uber and is in full support of the push to bring the ride-booking company back to Anchorage.

“I really like the idea of Uber coming back. I feel like it is going to help a lot of people save money, especially college students like myself,” Dhillon said.

Dhillon stressed that using Uber would save him time and money, but it would also provide a more enjoyable experience than riding in a local cab.

Mia Sison, an English major at UAA, also supports the renew of Uber in Anchorage.

“I think having Uber up here would be a great idea. I honestly don’t even know why it didn’t last long before. I definitely prefer Uber to regular cabs and taxis,” Sison said.

Although many Anchorage residents are in favor of the return of Uber, Evans’ ordinance must first be passed by the Anchorage Assembly. If passed, a change in state law is required before Uber or Lyft companies can operate in the municipality.