After months of slow negotiations, the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission released proposed rule changes that could pave the way for Uber to open in St. Louis.
While many of the proposed code revisions seem like minor updates -- such as allowing electronic ride tickets as well as written ones -- they'll have an impact on premium sedan ride-for-hire services across the city and county.
In May, Mayor Francis Slay threw his hat into the ring, personally encouraging the taxi authority to adopt alterations proposed by Uber.
St. Louis is the largest U.S. city without Uber, the company tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
I have urged the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission to consider and approve most of the code changes proposed by Uber. #fgs— MayorSlay.com (@MayorSlay) May 4, 2014
Here are the proposed changes. If they're accepted, Uber could get the green light to move into the Lou:
Current rule: Premium sedans can be no older than five model years. They cannot join the fleet if they're more than two model years old. Proposed rule: Premium sedans can be no older than six model years. If they are six model years old or enter service after two model years, drivers must submit the cars to inspections every six months.
Current rule: A driver must stay 2,500 feet away from a hotel or business unless he or she has a written trip ticket. Proposed rule: A driver must stay 200 feet away from a hotel or business unless he or she has a written or electronic trip ticket.
Current rule: Drivers and passengers must arrange the ride-for-hire at least 60 minutes before pick-up. Proposed rule: Drivers must be able to prove with an electronic or digital form that they have a prearranged contract with the passengers.
Current rule: Premium sedans parked on hotel or business property must have a written ticket or contract proving a passenger hired the driver for a specific date, time and trip. Drivers must be able to immediately provide the written ticket as proof. Proposed rule: Premium sedans parked on hotel or business property must have evidence that the passenger hired the driver. That evidence could be a trip ticket, written contract or a digital dispatch on a smartphone or other digital device. The evidence should also include the MTC number of the driver, the CCN holder's identity. Drivers must be able to immediately produce this proof that they were hired for the trip, even if it's in electronic form.
Current rule: When waiting for a passenger, premium sedan drivers must have the name of the passenger displayed prominently in the rear side window of the car, on a sign held by the driver or otherwise determined by the director. Proposed rule: Drivers don't need a window or hand-held sign if they were digitally dispatched and are able to provide electronic or digital proof of summons.
Even if Uber's proposed changes are adopted by the MTC, they're unlikely to help Lyft, another popular ride-share business looking to move in to the St. Louis market. While Uber approached city officials about opening in St. Louis, Lyft launched its app here without applying to the MTC for licensing. As Uber moves closer to approval, Lyft is fighting against a permanent injunction in a St. Louis circuit court.
The services Lyft and Uber are proposing are also different. Uber wants to open its so-called Uber Black service, which dispatches premium sedans at the touch of a smartphone, whereas Lyft and Uber's UberX service match part-time drivers using their personal vehicles with tech-savvy customers looking for rides.
The MTC will likely approve or deny the proposed changes for Uber at its meeting at 11 a.m. on July 22 at 2628 Delmar Boulevard.
Correction: This article previously misstated the time of Tuesday's MTC meeting. It is at 11 a.m.