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Tuscaloosa still in talks with Uber

Mary Catherine Connors

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In his most recent ‘Mayor’s Minute’ video, Mayor of Tuscaloosa Walt Maddox described the recent controversy with Uber’s service, citing an arrest of one of Uber’s drivers.

“Look at what happened on Sept. 17. We had an Uber driver who was arrested for possession of marijuana, an open beverage, and above all, had a suspended driver’s license,” Maddox said.

The city, according to the video, is attempting to work with the ride-sharing service, although Maddox said the safety of the public is a first priority.

“The city has a statutory responsibility to ensure your safety in a vehicle of hire, such as a taxi or a limousine. This brings me to my next point: This issue is about safety and not about an app,” Maddox said.

Maddox said the city had 
compromised for Uber in Tuscaloosa.

“The city has negotiated in good faith,” Maddox said. “For the last several weeks, we’ve had meetings, countless emails and a lot of discussions with the people from Uber about bringing their service here to Tuscaloosa. In fact, on seven of the 11 major points in our vehicle for hire policy, we have been willing to compromise or even abolish to bring Uber to Tuscaloosa.”

Maddox said that, although the city is willing to negotiate in good faith while maintaining public safety as the primary concern, Uber is not willing to comply with local municipal ordinances regarding vehicles for hire or compromises set forth by the city.

The Taxicab, Limousine and Paratransit Association’s public safety spokesperson, Dave Sutton, released a statement regarding Uber’s improper licensing and the arrest of the Uber driver in Tuscaloosa.

“If Tuscaloosa begins arresting Uber drivers, then Uber should not encourage its drivers to operate illegally anyhow,” Sutton said. “Uber has routinely encouraged its drivers to ignore public safety laws by using investor capital to pay driver fines. Uber should spend its money on public safety and compliance, not paying driver fines for operating unsafely.”

Uber, in an email sent Oct. 1 to Uber users in the Tuscaloosa area, said the organization has been “trying to work with Mayor Maddox and city officials to showcase the value we bring residents and visitors.” Uber said they’ve met in-person, spoken on the phone and have “provided access to how our industry leading standards hold public safety paramount.”

The email continues, stating the company has been met with an unwillingness to embrace new transportation options.

“Instead of talking about new approaches to new technologies, the city wants to force outdated regulations onto modern ridesharing [sic] models. Additionally, the city is using valuable city resources to target Uber drivers with excessive and unjust citations, and confiscating their cellphones in order to protect the status quo and limit how you travel around the city,” the email reads.

Uber also defended their practices, stating in the email that they use industry-leading background checks, $1 million commercial liability insurance (over 3 times what taxis in Tuscaloosa provide) and an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability.

Uber asked users to email Maddox to keep Uber in Tuscaloosa.

Tuscaloosa Police Department said they are working with the city on the matter. TPD said Uber does not own a business license, and arrests could be made if drivers are found who do not comply with the city’s regulations.

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Tuscaloosa still in talks with Uber