HOUSTON - The City of Houston has reached an agreement with ride-sharing app, Uber.
Mayor Turner released details of the agreement in a press conference on Wednesday. The mayor said the ride-sharing service will stay in Houston, as will the city’s requirement that Uber conduct fingerprint background checks on its drivers, through the Super Bowl in early 2017 “and for the foreseeable future."
City leaders said new sign up processes will allow new Uber drivers to be on the road within 20 minutes, without hurting passenger safety.
The mayor also said that having Uber stay in the city will be a huge help during the Super Bowl in February.
As part of the agreement, the city will bring changes to Chapter 46 of the City Code, which regulates vehicles-for-hire such as taxis, limos, and companies such as Uber.
The streamlined changes will reduce the costs of licensing from nearly $200 to $70, cut the licensing process in half and allow drivers to be licensed in under 20 minutes. The policy on background checks will not change, however.
The proposed changes are expected to come before City Council before the New Year.
In response to Mayor Turner’s announcement, Sarfraz Maredia, General Manager Texas for Uber, released the following statement Wednesday:
“For the past few months, we have worked in good faith with Mayor Turner to come to a compromise that would allow us to stay for the Super Bowl. Uber fully intends to continue operating through the Super Bowl under the City's proposed licensing changes.”
However, State Senator Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) has already filed Senate Bill 176, which, if passed during the 2017 Texas Legislature’s session, would overwrite city laws regulating ride-sharing companies like Uber and replaced them with one statewide set of regulations.
"The temporary agreement announced this morning does not change the fact that the City of Houston still has one of the most onerous, anti-competitive ride-sharing ordinances in the entire nation," said Tom Holloway, a spokesman for Sen. Schwertner.
“Don’t do to us what people have complained the feds have done to the state,” said Mayor Turner when asked about SB 176.
Turner also responded to questions about what the city would do if Uber lobbies in favor of the bill.
“I simply assume, and I take everyone that we’re dealing with in good faith, that you will not be dealing with me now and then undoing the deal in Austin, Texas,” he said. “I operate in good faith, and I expect everyone to operate in good faith with me.”
(© 2016 KHOU)