Patrick Eyeing State Regulations on Uber, Lyft in Massachusetts

Ride-sharing app Uber –AP

Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing services may soon face new regulations in Massachusetts. The Boston Globe reports Gov. Deval Patrick hopes to give the state’s Department of Public Utilities the regulatory authority over the services—though they don’t seem to mind too much.

“We applaud Governor Patrick and the administration for taking this step forward in formally recognizing ride-sharing as a new and valuable transportation alternative in the state of Massachusetts,’’ Uber Boston spokesperson Meghan Joyce said.

Patrick’s proposed regulations don’t look all that stringent. According to the Globe, ride-sharing companies would be required to obtain “certificates to operate’’ and to conduct background checks on drivers (as Uber and Lyft already do internally—though their systems have faced a bit of scrutiny). Drivers would need to be 21 years old or older, and have driver’s licenses (you think?) and proof of personal car insurance.

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The rules could be put in place through the Department of Transportation before Patrick leaves office next month, the Globe reports. But they wouldn’t take effect unless and until the legislature gives DPU oversight capabilities, which probably wouldn’t happen before the next legislative session begins next year.

Earlier this year, Uber hired former Patrick campaign manager David Plouffe to serve as SVP of policy and strategy.

Boston City Council began looking into municipal regulations for ride-sharing services last week at a hearing. There, some councilors suggested Uber drivers should pay livery fees to the city, but the meeting was open-ended and exploratory.

Uber has faced some backlash for controversial policies and PR blunders in the past few months. It is facing a lawsuits in Portland, Ore., where it began operating last week despite rules that made it illegal, and in California over the quality of its background checks and driver safety. It has in recent months been banned in Nevada and Germany, and in New Delhi, India, after a driver was accused of raping a passenger last week.

The company has also seen recent legislative successes, such as agreements with the governments of Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Colorado that were seen as beneficial to ridesharing services.

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It also has legions of loyal users and has raised a boatload of money, most recently at a $40 billion valuation. The valuation of Lyft, its chief competitor, has most recently been pegged around $700 million.

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