Lawmakers will have to make a decision without empirical data on what if any regulations it should impose on ridesharing sharing services like Uber.
A study commissioned by the legislature’s Transportation Commission gave lawmakers a handful of ways they could deal with ridesharing services. The recommendations vary from doing nothing to treating ridesharing companies like taxi and livery companies.
Lawmakers have been struggling with Uber’s new social business model where consumers can use an app to request a ride from a driver who will pick them up in their personal vehicle.
Transportation Commissioner James Redeker said that the key issues appear to have been addressed as effectively as possible, recognizing the fact that there is little in the form of data to support solid conclusions for state regulation of these ridesharing companies.
Because of this, Redeker told the committee that he does not believe that he can recommend one specific plan of action for adjusting the regulations without concrete data. At the very least, he said the drivers should have a special license plate.
Members of the Transportation Committee on Monday heard from dozens of Connecticut ridesharing drivers and representatives of the taxi industry, who lobbied for greater regulation of these ridesharing companies.
Michael Cacioppo, a former Connecticut taxi driver and now an Uber driver, said that lawmakers should know that Uber drivers are reliable and still follow specific regulations for insurance and passenger safety, although they are not determined by the state.
Uber officials testified that they weren’t opposed to reasonable regulations.
Nicole Benincasa, a policy and regulatory associate for Uber, said that if there are improvements that need to be made in the taxi industry that’s something that should happen.
But “I think it’s important we adopt a separate regulatory structure for this separate technology and these services that we’re providing,” she added.
Cacioppo said the service is creating competition in the marketplace.
“This is what consumers want. They want another option,” Cacioppo said attesting to the convenience of Uber, which has been in operation in Connecticut since 2014.
But not everyone agrees.
“They keep saying innovation, but I’m not seeing what the innovation is,” Matthew Daus, president of the International Association of Transportation Regulators, said.
Daus explained that laws with different classes of licenses should not be made without reason. “There is no reason — it’s a passenger getting in a car going from Point A to Point B, and paying for it,” Daus said.
William Scalzi, president and founder of Metro Taxi, the largest full-service taxi company in Connecticut, said that the taxi industry is not trying to exclude Uber, but rather have them adhere to the existing state transportation regulations.
“There is an unprecedented corporate lawbreaking going on right now,” Scalzi said.
Scalzi noted that New York is the only place in the world that Uber operates in exactly 100 percent compliance with all the existing regulations, and in doing so they’ve grown to be the largest livery service that New York has ever had, operating about 14,000 cars.
“If they can do it there, why would they ask Connecticut to make special regulations to accommodate them when obviously they don’t need them?” Scalzi asked.
Noe Castro, an Uber driver from Bridgeport, disagreed that ridesharing companies should be subject to the same regulations as taxi and livery services.
“Who ends up losing in the end is not only the driver, but the passengers as well. We provide competitive pricing. We can go anywhere around the state, something that cabs simply can’t provide because we’re providing our service. We’re hurting more the consumer than anything else,” Castro said.
Castro explained that commercial insurance and coverage up to $1 million kicks in as soon as he picks up a passenger and his personal vehicle insurance covers him and his family when he’s not working.
And there’s little doubt that it’s disrupting the marketplace. Uber operates in Fairfield and New Haven counties and also at the two tribal casinos.
Luiz Iaccino, a driver from Greenwich Taxi, complained that he has felt the implications of ridesharing companies in Connecticut. Iaccino said he has to drive about five more hours every day to make the same amount of money that he did before ridesharing companies operated in the state.
“Why do we have such strict rules and regulations for one and we don’t for the other?,” Rep. Russ Morin, D-Wethersfield, said.
He said he understands everyone in the room is trying to make a living for their family, but he just can’t understand why the state would regulate one set of companies and not the other.