Despite a new proposal from the state covering ridesharing in Maryland, Uber isn’t expecting to find common ground with Maryland regulators.
On Feb. 12, the Maryland Public Service Commission staff released draft regulations that would cover “Transportation Network Companies,” which is legalese for ridesharing companies like Lyft and Uber.
Reflecting ongoing settlement discussions between the two sides, the regulations seem to entertain the idea of a future free of demands for driver lists and challenges from taxicab companies. The draft acknowledges surge pricing, and seems to detail Uber’s exact scheme of displaying the name of the driver, license plate and agreed-upon fare. The PSC signaled it will initiate a rulemaking session that could codify the proposed legislation, but there’s still a bigger question that the company and at least one legislator believes still isn’t addressed.
The draft regulations stem from the PSC’s August ruling that declared UberBLACK a “common carrier,” meaning the company would have to apply for a taxicab permit for its flagship black-car service. That’s a problem for Uber and other app-based ridesharing services, they say, because the business model is centered around using private cars to go around the taxi industry and its notoriously tight regulations.
According to the PSC staff’s cover letter, the draft regulations were presented to a working group that included industry players. The parties once again failed to reach a consensus.
“While neighboring DC and Virginia have enacted laws that recognize ridesharing as a new transportation alternative, the PSC has proposed a framework that would severely restrict our ability to provide access to jobs and reliable, affordable rides,” Uber spokeswoman Kaitlin Durkosh said in an emailed statement. “We look forward to continuing to work with legislators on a sensible solution for ridesharing that promotes choice and opportunity in Maryland.”
Just like last year, State Sen. Bill Ferguson will be involved in bringing legislation to address the ridesharing regs. Ferguson, who has been adamant that losing Uber and Lyft would be bad for Maryland’s image as a tech state, said the regulations were “better than where they were headed a year ago.” Problems remained with jurisdiction, however, he said.
Since the draft regulations have Uber falling under the common carrier standard, Ferguson told Technical.ly Baltimore there’s still confusion over how the services could operate in different jurisdictions.
Along with the PSC, areas like Annapolis, Montgomery County and Ocean City all have their own taxicab regulations. The result of this has played out in recent weeks, with the City of Annapolis pledging to crack down on Uber drivers, while areas like Baltimore city allow them to drive unfettered.
“A driver that’s driving from Baltimore to Annapolis would have separate rules about what regulations apply to their car,” Ferguson said. “There’s this ultimate policy question that the legislature has to resolve as to how these entities are regulated in the state of Maryland.”
He said a bill could drop as soon as this week.
Meanwhile, at the PSC, comments on the proposed regulations are due by March 4. A session to consider the regulations is schedule for March 20 at the Commission’s 16th Floor Hearing Room in the William Donald Schaefer Tower.
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