A local taxi company owner spoke at the Auburn City Council meeting Tuesday to protest the service Uber and to voice concerns over its operations in the Auburn area. Jeff Steiger, owner of KGM Auburn Trax, represented his company along with Tiger Taxi, Twin City Taxi, Eagle Town Taxi, Fourth Quarter Taxi and Spirit Town Taxi.
According to Steiger, Uber’s insurance is private. Uber does not have public transportation insurance. Uber has no requirement for city licenses, while Steiger’s company has city licenses for its business and its drivers. Uber does not administer a background check verified by Auburn Public Safety or city manager. Uber’s cars are not marked. Students and residents of Auburn would have no way of knowing if the car they were getting into was an Uber vehicle.
Mayor Bill Ham, Jr. said City Manager Charlie Duggan had started to handle this matter. Ham also said that he and Duggan had a phone conference with the mayor of Tuscaloosa, since Tuscaloosa had been having some of the same issues with Uber. Tuscaloosa is also trying to figure out how to handle the situation.
Duggan said they have taken steps to address Uber’s presence. “In speaking with the city attorney and our police chief, we plan to enforce Section 23 of the city code vehicles-for-hire which would require all of the drivers of an Uber vehicle to meet the same standards of our taxi drivers…This appears to be a taxi service so we’re going to treat it like one, and being fair to everyone, they need to meet the same regulations.”
Steiger noted that the City of Birmingham has blocked Uber’s transportation services as of July 28, 2014. Birmingham’s licensed taxi services rallied against Uber. Uber said the agreement posed by the City of Birmingham was too restrictive. The agreement would have required Uber to give background checks to its employees, pay full-time taxi insurance, to have business licenses and public needs certificates.
“As taxi owners and operators, we have significant costs that are required for our licenses, insurance, [and] maintenance on our vehicles to maintain transportation for our community members,” said Steiger. “Other companies such as Uber threaten the safety and reliability of transportation and reduce the taxes and contributions that we bring in giving our employees jobs and keeping our consumers or community members safe to where they need to go.”
This spot brief was an assignment for my JRNL2310 Reporting course at Auburn University in fall 2014.