Honolulu mayor vetoes bill to cap surge pricing for rideshare companies

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Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell vetoed Tuesday a bill to regulate private transportation companies like Uber and Lyft.

Bill 35 CD1, FD1 would have capped surge pricing on rideshare services. It was passed June 6 by the Honolulu City Council in a 6-3 vote.

“Cities around the world and cities in our country struggle with these apps and how do you find the balance between old business models and new business models while protecting the community and the customer. That’s paramount for every single mayor, and it’s paramount with this mayor and this administration. The council now has twice approached this issue and tried to find a way through it where the old technology could maybe exist along with the new ridesharing technology, and how do we find that balance. Unfortunately, I believe the bill that they passed, Bill 35, does not find that balance,” Caldwell said.

Uber previously told the media that, should the bill become law, the company would have to evaluate whether it could continue in Hawaii.

Tabatha Chow, Uber senior operations manager for Hawaii, released the following statement Tuesday: 

“Mayor Caldwell’s veto protects consumer choice and earning opportunities on Oahu. We look forward to continuing to serve our community.”

“I’m doing this partly to continue the discussion as we move forward into the 21st century to not look backwards to the past and say how do we protect it, but how do we continue to move forward using technology to better serve and meet all of our needs as we move about this incredible city,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell says he’s tasked the city’s corporation counsel to draft new legislation that would “level the playing field and allow transportation companies to do whatever they want, as long as there’s disclosure and as long as the public is protected, and then the public can make that choice that they want as to whether they want to get into a traditional taxi cab or to a ridesharing (vehicle).”

“For me, it is about leveling the playing field for all private transportation companies, whatever your model is. We want to let you operate in the fairest way possible, but we want to protect consumers,” Caldwell said.

Click here to watch Tuesday’s full press conference on KHON2’s Facebook page.

Uber driver Lynda Kernaghan was very happy with the mayor’s decision.

“It doesn’t just help us. It helps everybody on both sides. It’s going to level the playing field, as they say, but at the same time it leaves what we’re doing the way it is,” Kernaghan said.

Not everyone was pleased with what the mayor had to say. Councilwoman  Kymberly Pine had voted in favor of Bill 35.

“Uber admitted during testimony that a rider was charged $300 in a desperate time just to get home. Now the mayor wants taxis to be able to do the same? That is just simply not acceptable to me,” Pine said.

When asked whether she would override the mayor’s veto, Pine said the city council wil be discussing the issue at great length when they meet again in several weeks.

“Allowing for-profit companies, especially a $65-billion company to dictate what we should do in our town is not a good thing for the consumer. Our main mission at the city council is to protect the consumer and make sure that no one is being taken advantage of,” Pine said.

The city council has up to a month to override the mayor’s veto.

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