SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Shreveport City leaders made the first step in exploring the possibility of partnering with Uber Monday afternoon. Uber is a phone app that connects passengers with nearby drivers for easier travel.
Uber has been testing the waters in Shreveport by advertising for drivers since 2015. However, the company can't officially operate without the city council passing an ordinance to allow them to give rides within city limits.
The council's public safety committee took the first step in possibly allowing Uber by discussing the idea. Jerry Bowman is the chair of the committee. "I've had a few phone calls and a lot of emails about Uber," he said.
Bowman said he likes the idea of Uber setting up shop in Shreveport. "My personal opinion as far as Uber is concerned is that it would be a great competitor in the market," he said. "I think it is everyone's choice of who they want to use for their transportation."
The room was packed with people representing several different cab companies, who had a lot of concerns about the ride-sharing app. "It's just not safe to let an app run public transportation," one taxi cab rep said.
Many of the biggest concerns verbalized at the committee meeting were that Uber won't have to follow the same regulations other cab companies do. "I think we all are frustrated when someone goes online and gets 10/20/10 insurance and goes out in a Toyota Corolla and picking people up for half of what you guys [cab drivers] are doing it for, that is just not a fair playing field," said Shreveport Limousine General Manager Ron Remedies.
"I don't think anybody has a problem with competition, it makes us all better," said Remedies, "But where the Trojan Horse effect comes in is when you change the law to allow maybe 2 or 3 of these legitimate operators to come in, then all of a sudden overnight we have 15 on the weekend that are gypsy, that don't go through the vetting process."
Remedies told the committee he thinks there needs to be an enforcement mechanism included in the ordinance, not just in the driver approval process, but also after if drivers are not following the law.
Councilman Willie Bradford assured the group approving or denying Uber will not be a "knee-jerk" situation. "We will do our due diligence," he said.
An Uber spokesman is expected to attend the next meeting when the topic is brought up again to answer questions.
According to Shreveport Attorney William Bradford, the draft of the ordinance allowing Uber will likely be reviewed by committee again before it heads to the full council for a vote, should the committee choose to move it forward.