It’s Time to Integrate Transportation Network Companies

Consumer choice is at the heart of a healthy economy. It drives down prices and allows business to thrive. We have an opportunity to bring that kind of choice to San Antonio by embracing new transportation-for-hire technologies. Our residents deserve safe, legal, competitive options in private transportation and we should amend City Code in order to achieve that.
Currently, San Antonio lacks the regulatory flexibility needed to unleash innovation in the transportation industry. Even though City Council recently amended Chapter 33 of the City Code, which regulates vehicle-for-hire services, progress and marketplace disruption demand that we revisit its contents.
To open the doors for innovation in the transportation-for-hire industry, the City Council should adopt policies that: 1) level the playing field; 2) encourage competition; 3) ensure public safety and consumer protection; and 4) provide access for all of our residents.
Level Playing Field
The City Council can deal with burdensome regulations and level the playing field by eliminating caps on transportation-for-hire vehicles, removing or lowering barriers to entry into the marketplace, and eliminating the regulation of fares.
Once everyone is playing by the same rules, competition can grow. Both rideshare and traditional transportation-for-hire companies will be forced to work to earn consumers’ business. As a result, we have the opportunity to enjoy better services delivered at a lower cost.
Public Safety
Opponents of these companies have cited legitimate public safety concerns. Although no form of transportation, including traditional taxis, can be made perfectly safe, we owe it to the public to ensure the highest degree of safety. This could be achieved through insurance requirements and a permitting apparatus that applies to drivers and vehicles associated with any transportation-for-hire service. Driver background checks, drug tests, vehicle age, and mileage requirements are among the options we could consider.
Equal Access
Access and nondiscrimination are values that this Council has embraced in a variety of contexts. Code provisions can prohibit discrimination on the basis of geographic location and ensure ADA compliance.
Cities around the world have already taken steps to embrace progress in transportation-for-hire, and our city policy should encourage innovation as well. If these changes are adopted, competition will flourish in the transportation-for-hire industry, and consumers will reap the rewards.
What do you think? Should City Council adopt transportation-for-hire reforms?
Ron Nirenberg
Ron Nirenberg

I appreciate your responses to my position on the transportation-for-hire industry. This is a complex issue that deserves a meaningful dialogue between all stakeholders.Traditional transportation-for-hire companies have served San Antonians exceptionally for decades. As you mentioned in your email, our city’s transportation is one of the things that distinguishes San Antonio from cities across the state and country. This excellence wasn’t achieved through City action or policy, but through the hard work of taxi drivers like you.Transportation networking companies like Uber and Lyft have brought tremendous innovation into the transportation-for-hire market, but they also carry with them a unique set of difficulties. I believe those difficulties need to be addressed by changes to our City Code, so that we can benefit San Antonio consumers while providing a safe, legal market in which all companies can operate fairly. That’s the objective of our transportation-for-hire ordinance; it is not to favor one company or another.The City Council needs to take action to level the playing field and encourage competition while ensuring public safety and equal access. The changes to Chapter 33 of the City Code that accomplish this could include lowering barriers to entry into the transportation-for-hire market, eliminating the regulation of fares, and requiring that the same safety standards be met by all transportation-for-hire businesses.Once these changes are made, I believe that San Antonio’s transportation-for-hire industry will benefit from increased competition and consumer choice. TNCs aren’t the only innovators, as you pointed out in your email. Traditional transportation-for-hire companies have embraced new technology and kept up with the times, and I see no reason why that progress won’t continue in a more competitive market.In short, I hope the City Council will make changes to City Code that encourage further innovation in the transportation-for-hire market while making sure the fruits of that innovation are delivered to our citizens in a safe, legal manner.Again, thank you for your response, Mr. Chavira. I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to reach a conclusion that benefits traditional transportation-for-hire companies, TNCs and, most importantly, the citizens of San Antonio.Sincerely,Ron


These operations have been breaking the laws. The city should first force them to obey the current vehicle ordinance and not operate. Then they need to apply to operate and when approve under the current tough rules and regulation, then they can start operating. The city should not negotiate with these criminals.The city should not watered down the current vehicle for hire ordinance for these criminals. Fair competition is when everyone plays by the rules. These guys want special rules that will not fully protect the public, auto liability insurance with gaps, self regulation of their vehicles, self licensing of their drivers, no regulation on their fares that will lead to overcharging of customers, unlimited amount of permits that will lead to over saturation of the market an will hurt all the drivers earnings, and the list goes on.Thay are only interested in competing unfairly and using predatory pricing tactics to put the competition out of business. They are using their high price attorneys and they're high price lobbyists to try to get their way.


Reply to CouncilmanRegarding your recent article in the Express News, Hell yes, let’s overhaul the whole damn thing. I am sick and tired of the scapegoating hurled at our taxi industry for adhering to the dictates of politicians (meaning Chapter 33, and ordinances incorporated in our City Charter) who know little about our industry and our City. If you think a bunch of recent out of town mercenaries have the best interests of our City, then by all means, rig the system so they can take over the chore of transporting local residents and visitors to their heart’s content, and shove local drivers, driver cooperatives, and cab companies aside and eventually force our bankruptcies.I am glad you’re against “discrimination” of passengers. Explain your thoughts on “…. certain passengers based on pick-up location.” Do you mean blacks and Hispanics who are close to 70% of the City’s population? Do you mean 500,000 elderly residents, many of whom are on fixed incomes and shy away from using Credit Cards to pay fares? Or are you dispassionate because the TNC business plans make your district the epicenter of their market? Do you really see your mustachioed vehicles picking up at the Alazan Apache, Lincoln, or Wheatley Courts?Any vehicle for hire is capable of servicing Disabled Americans, as long as these customers pay with credit cards and are not wheelchair-bound. Do you think TNCs are going to transport impoverished patients of the emergency or outpatient clinics at the VA and University Hospitals in your District? Think again. This would throw TNCs off their game plan.You are out of touch if you think that 1.3 million plus residents of San Antonio poses the latest IPhone devices required by TNCs business plans in order to request service. Those who own Crickets, Blackberries, or other cheaper cellular phone devices will be automatically excluded from TNC transportation services. Would this create a problem for your anti-discrimination stance for the industry?I have been hearing from customers since 1990. During these 24 years, very few have left my cab angry or disappointed with my service. I have heard their many comparisons with other Cities; ours was credited with having the best vehicles they had ever ridden. This comforts me, for I love my City and its history. I have always pointed to our communal friendliness and how pleasing it is to welcome visitors.Drop your cleverness and do a proper evaluation of the many improvements our industry has achieved, especially in the last decade. We have the vehicles, we have the technology, we pay your fees and taxes, we have undisputed commercial insurance with 24/7 coverage, we have drug tested, background investigated drivers, and best of all, our operations are financed by local investors – no need to go to offshore tax havens or to foreign investors to meet your industry standards; so I ask you, what more can we do for you other than letting you have your way with us?By all rights, as a Mexican American, I should be accustomed to getting displaced by the weakest of reasons. That’s how our ancestors lost our lands; that’s how we have acquiesced to despotic City governments of the past.Just how do you envision maintaining “high standards for public safety”, when TNCs resist obtaining commercial insurance for their vehicles-for-hire; or refuse full-fledged background checks for their drivers, or the established City ordinances that prescribe the price of taxi rides? When all those foreign investors come knocking you’re going to hear all those google emails leaving San Antonio authorizing millions of interest payments to offshore tax havens and to foreign lands. So I ask you again, what’s your rational for giving them total control on the price of a ride, and the ability to change the amounts during high activity periods? How do you propose to protect consumers then?