The Urban County Council is expected to review a new ordinance regulating ride-sharing companies such as Lyft and Uber in January, months after debate began on how Lexington should regulate the companies that use technology to connect drivers with riders.
At the same January meeting, the council might also consider loosening some of the regulations regarding traditional taxi cab operators.
Glenda George, a lawyer for the city, told the council during Tuesday's Public Safety Committee meeting that the city has been waiting months for the state to implement state-wide rules for ride-sharing services. The state Department of Transportation has drafted emergency regulations, but Gov. Steve Beshear has not yet signed them.
George recommended that the city move forward with its own ordinance and not wait for the state. The city could change its ordinance to match the state later, she said.
Many on the council said they were concerned that the city has already determined that Lyft and Uber should be regulated like traditional taxi cab companies. Yet, neither Lyft nor Uber has paid for taxi cab licenses nor paid occupational sales taxes while operating in the city.
"Who is enforcing these policies?" Council member Kevin Stinnett asked.
Chief administrative officer Sally Hamilton told the council that in addition to new ordinances for ride-sharing companies, the city's administration will have a policy on enforcement at its January meeting.
Council member Peggy Henson, chairwoman of the Public Safety Committee, said the city can't clamp down on the ride-sharing companies because, until they are regulated, it's impossible for the city to know who is an Uber or Lyft driver.
City officials have debated what to do with the popular ride-sharing services since this summer, after Lyft and Uber started operating in Lexington in the spring. Taxi cab operators say Lyft and Uber have an unfair market advantage because they don't have to comply with the city's taxi cab regulations, which require 24-hour service and a minimum of 25 cabs owned by the taxi company. Those requirements add to taxi operators' overhead costs.
Ride-sharing companies, meanwhile, say they aren't traditional taxi operators. They use technology to connect drivers with riders. They don't own any vehicles. They do, however, have insurance, they say.
No taxi cab operators, Uber or Lyft representatives spoke during Tuesday's meeting.
The city also is considering making changes to the city's taxi cab regulations, changes that have been in the works for months. One suggestion is lowering the minimum number of cars in a taxi cab fleet from 25 to 10. The requirement that taxi operators must be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year might also be deleted.
Council member Harry Clarke said the city has to be careful to balance the needs of its residents and public safety. Younger Lexington residents might prefer Uber or Lyft. But many elderly people in Lexington depend on taxis to get around, he said.
"I think the bottom line is, we need a level playing field," Clarke said.