Companies like Uber and Lyft has had their share of the spotlight in the news since arriving in Mississippi. This time is no different from the last time except, they have state law on their side.
Taxi drivers in Jackson are complaining again about how Uber and Lyft has a supposed unfair advantage. Councilman Kenneth Stokes is listening but seemed a little reluctant in his WLBT interview. This is after changes to taxi ordinances in the City of Jackson has been on the backburner for many months and after the Council put the ball in their court, giving taxi companies a chance in 2016, to come up with fair changes but they couldn’t come to an agreement or meet the deadline.
Nathaniel Johnson, a Jackson Taxi driver of 40 years said in an interview, “they have taken so much of our business.” And rightfully so. With taxi fares in Jackson being some of the highest in the Nation. Starting at between $6-$9 before the driver even takes his vehicle out of park and going up $3 every mile thereafter.
Mr. Johnson goes on talking about how taxi drivers has to be badged[sic], take drug tests, physicals and that it isn’t a requirement of TNC drivers.
Councilman Stokes said that some of the disabled citizens in Jackson had some concerns about being serviced by taxi companies in Jackson. Transportation Network Companies has helped put the brakes on patrons not getting adequate transportation regardless of disability. Uber and Lyft requires drivers to agree and adhere with ADA regulations when they are first approved to be a driver. Taxi drivers can pick and choose who to service and so can dispatchers. From the time a passenger requests a ride with Uber or Lyft, the service is not discriminatory, it’s automated. The Uber and Lyft takes the ride request and selects an available driver in the close proximity to the passenger if that driver doesn’t accept the request, the request is forwarded to another. Thus eliminating dispatchers, long wait times or a vehicle not showing up at all.
Taxi drivers makes their services out to be better and more professional than their competitors’. I’ve drove in Jackson for quite some time and for both sides. I found out quite a different story from Taxi and TNC passengers. One of my passengers tried calling one of the local taxi companies for a ride and the person who answered said it would be 2 hours before a driver could get to him. In another conversation, an elderly lady spoke with me about needing a taxi from a local grocery store last year. She waited over an hour after calling for a taxi, in the heat of summer, before another customer offered her a ride.
Some cities in Mississippi started passing their own laws in 2016 and Uber was ousted from Oxford, Biloxi and Gulfport. The State of Mississippi put a stop to it and passed the Transportation Network Company Act which was enacted and went into place July 1, 2016. This gave companies like Uber and Lyft a universal guideline for operating anywhere in Mississippi.
The Transportation Network Company Act protects Uber and Lyft from local ordinances that may have been passed and any future ordinances any city tries to pass.
Transportation network companies and transportation network company drivers are governed exclusively by the Transportation Network Company Act, Mississippi House Bill No. 1381, 2016 Regular Legislative Session, and these rules promulgated by the commissioner consistent with said act. A county, municipality or other local entity may not:
- Impose a tax on, or require a license for, a transportation network company, a transportation network company driver or a vehicle used by a transportation network company driver where the tax or licenses relate to providing prearranged rides;
- Require a transportation network company or a transportation network company driver to obtain a business license or any other type of similar authorization to operate within the jurisdiction; or
- Subject a transportation network company or a transportation network company driver to any type of rate, entry, operational or other requirements.
To help the taxi companies, Jackson should start looking at their track record with local citizens. Councilman Stokes announced the opportunity to do just that. There will be an public hearing Wednesday, October 9th at 6:00 p.m. Everyone is encouraged to attend and voice their concern.