Fayette County

Lexington moving closer to repealing taxi regulations

Taxis were lined up at Lexington's Blue Grass Airport in September.
Taxis were lined up at Lexington's Blue Grass Airport in September. mcornelison@herald-leader.com

Lexington is moving forward with repealing its taxi regulations as part of an effort to make cab companies competitive with the ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber.

A committee of the Lexington Urban County Council voted 7-3 Tuesday to repeal city ordinances that regulate taxis, including provisions that regulate fares and driver background checks. The issue will go to the full council for a vote sometime after January.

The Planning and Public Safety Committee had voted in November to suspend enforcement after the state put into place regulations for ride-sharing companies last year. That state regulation says that Lexington and Louisville — the only Kentucky cities that regulate cab companies — have no jurisdiction over ride-sharing companies.

That means that if the city keeps its regulations, taxis would have more regulations than ride-sharing companies.

During the November Planning and Public Safety Committee meeting, some members had concerns about ending the city’s oversight of cab companies, particularly its ability to set fares.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Glenda George, a lawyer for the city, said the city could keep its taxi ordinance if it made changes to comply with the state regulations. One of those regulations would require cab operators to provide the city with insurance and criminal background checks once they have successfully applied to the state. The state requires cabs and ride-sharing companies to have insurance, pay fees to the state and pass criminal background checks.

But many council members voiced reservations Tuesday about requiring cab operators to do more than Uber and Lyft drivers.

“I am of the opinion we don’t want to regulate taxis because we don’t regulate (transportation network companies),” Councilwoman Peggy Henson said.

Councilwoman Shevawn Akers agreed.

“I am uncomfortable with regulating the taxi cab industry and not the transportation network companies,” Akers said.

But Councilwoman Susan Lamb said that by requiring the cab companies to report who they are to the city, the city can find them and has knowledge of who is driving people in Lexington. The state has provided the city with a list of drivers for both Uber and Lyft, but that information includes only the drivers’ names and license numbers but not their addresses. It’s hard for the city to know if they are operating in Lexington, she said.

It’s not known how much money the city could lose now that the state is regulating taxi cabs and ride-sharing companies.

Ultimately, the committee voted to repeal the ordinance altogether. In addition to Lamb, Councilmen Jake Gibbs and Bill Farmer voted against repeal.

Cities and states across the country have grappled with how to regulate ride-sharing companies that use computer applications to connect drivers with riders. The city has debated what to do with its taxi ordinances for more than a year as it waited for the state to finalize its regulations regarding ride-sharing companies.

Beth Musgrave: 859-231-3205, @HLCityhall

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