NJ municipalities and state lawmakers scrambling to regulate Uber
ELIZABETH — As more cities like this one try to come up with a policy regarding Uber and other ride share services, many are looking to Newark's agreement as an example of a good plan.
The Elizabeth City Council voted Tuesday night to ban the services from Newark Liberty International Airport's Terminal A, which rests on the Union County city's side of the border, and its train stations.
The local law also would impose some of the regulations that apply to taxi drivers, who have argued that Uber unfairly undercuts them by avoiding the onerous and costly rules.
The local law would require each driver to have three references and undergo background checks. The ride share companies would also have to pay a fee to the city.
The council's vote might be all for naught. NJ Advance Media reported that Mayor J. Christian Bollwage said the ordinance is "unenforceable" because the airport facilities all are on Port Authority property.
The Port Authority earlier had asked the City Council to not take a vote on the ordinance because it was still discussing a policy with its lawyers, according to the news website.
In a statement, spokesman Craig Ewer said Uber was "disappointed" in the vote.
"This unworkable ordinance is precisely why we need modern, statewide regulations for ride sharing — modeled after our agreement with the City of Newark," Ewer said. "We will be reviewing our options as this ordinance is considered by the mayor for approval."
Under Uber's agreement with the city of Newark, Uber will pay the city $10 million over 10 years for the right to pick up Newark Liberty International Airport passengers. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, has raised questions about whether the city has the authority to strike such a deal.
Ewer said that no other towns have taken action to outright ban Uber.
In Georgia, Atlanta's City Council is looking at Newark's agreement as the basis for their own agreement to allow ride sharing at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. As in Newark, criminal background checks have been a point of contention in Atlanta, with Uber objecting to the type of fingerprint checks being proposed. Uber maintains that its own background checks are sufficient.
Others, including many law enforcement experts, say background checks without fingerprints are far less effective.
In Houston, where city officials insisted on fingerprint checks for Uber drivers, they found that background checks without fingerprints allowed people who have been charged with murder, sexual assault and other crimes to evade detection in a variety of ways.
Hartsfield-Jackson General Manager Miguel Southwell has said that he hoped to legalize Uber X and Lyft pickups at the airport by July 1. Now, it's "difficult to say" whether that will still happen by July 1, Southwell told the the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In Trenton on Wednesday, Assemblymen Joseph Lagana, Troy Singleton and John Wisniewski announced that they will introduce legislation that will create statewide standards including requirements regarding driver eligibility, insurance coverage and records retention.
The Associated Press contributed to this report