Bills would establish statewide regulations for ‘transportation network companies’ — including Uber and Lyft

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald

    Vicente Martinez stands next to his taxi van Friday at the Hilo International Airport.

A pair of bills in the state Legislature would codify the state’s management of ride-sharing networks such as Uber and Lyft.

Senate Bill 1161 and its companion, House Bill 1093, would establish a series of rules for “transportation network companies” — in particular popular ride-sharing applications such as Uber and Lyft — to operate within the state.

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The bills require the companies to first obtain a permit from the director of the state Department of Transportation to operate and maintain records of driver applicants’ criminal history, among other things.

“Most of Lyft and Uber have already been doing this, but now it’ll be in the law,” said Sen. Lorraine Inouye, who introduced SB 1161.

According to the bills, Uber and Lyft are prohibited from employing any driver who has ever been convicted of attempting to evade the police, reckless driving or driving with a suspended or revoked license within three years, or any driver convicted of a felony or any misdemeanor related to driving or sexual offenses within the past seven years.

The bills also would require the companies to permit their records to be audited by the state in order to prove compliance.

Inouye said the bills would make the regulations governing transportation network companies uniform throughout the state. Currently, the counties are left to decide how those companies would be regulated.

Hawaii County does not have any language in its County Code regarding transportation network companies.

The bills received positive support from state agencies as well as representatives of Uber and Lyft.

Tabatha Chow, senior operations manager for Uber, wrote the bills “would provide uniform regulations for (transportation network company) operations throughout all of Hawaii,” which is an improvement, as the companies’ “driver screening and other operating requirements are currently only mandated for Honolulu county.”

Inouye said that traditional taxicab companies are unhappy with the bills, although no cab company testified in opposition to the bills yet. By enshrining businesses such as Uber and Lyft into state law, the ride-sharing apps will be even harder for traditional cabs to compete against, she said.

Earlier this year, Uber and Lyft were permitted to make pickups at airports, including Hilo International Airport. Cab driver Vicente Martinez said that new rule reduced the number of his pickups by 60 percent.

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“The cab companies have always been in opposition,” Inouye said. “But (Uber and Lyft) are all over the world now. It’s just a matter of time.”

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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