The battle between taxi drivers and ride-sharing services, like Uber, got heated at a Honolulu City Council hearing Thursday.
The committee meeting felt more like a courtroom, with representatives from both Uber and taxi cab companies presenting spirited arguments to the council members.
Bill 85 would require ride sharing drivers to have dome lights and taxi meters, just like taxis are required to do now. It would also prohibit drivers from using their phone’s GPS to calculate fares.
Taxi drivers would also be able to charge new fares in times when there is more demand, similar to Uber’s surge pricing.
The argument Thursday centered around whether or not companies like Uber can in fact be classified as taxis.
Taxi companies said they believe the lack of regulation on ride-sharing companies creates an uneven playing field, and they firmly believe Uber is a taxi service and should be regulated as such.
“We would like to see an even playing field,” said Howard Higa, president of TheCAB. “We’ve said that plenty of times, but I believe there’s rules and regulations that could be retrofitted to make everyone happy, the so-called traditional taxis and the high-tech taxis.”
Uber representatives don’t agree. Spokeswoman Taylor Patterson says comparing Uber to taxis is like comparing apples and oranges.
She also says Uber will work with the council in any way it can. “I think what we saw is there is going to be more discussion on this particular issue,” Patterson said. “Our hope is to continue a thorough discussion with council members to make sure that we’re working alongside them to make sure they know how the models differ, and what we can do to come to a working resolution.”
Representatives say in its current form, the bill would drive Uber out of business on Oahu.
Uber has roughly 3,500 drivers on Oahu.