Ordinance allowing ride services in Pullman will yield results

Uber, Lyft are now unrestricted from operating in Pullman, will increase safety

RIDGE PETERSON, Evergreen columnist

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The recent ordinance allowing Uber to operate in Pullman will bring new opportunities and increased safety for residents, especially students. Young people, who generally prefer using the app-based taxi service to standard cabs, will be the biggest beneficiaries of this service.

While traditional taxis have served Pullman for decades, the City Council passed an ordinance that allows drivers to work without a fingerprint or other local background check, essentially giving services such as Uber and Lyft the right to work within the city earlier this month.

Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins said changing the background check rule was critical in enabling Uber, because of the company’s business model.

“We were the ones that brought this forward to council, because of requests by Uber at the end of 2016 to operate in our city,” Jenkins said. “They would have had to go through a local background check for all of their drivers, and that is something that doesn’t meet their national model.”

Jenkins said Lyft also wanted the local background check rule repealed before they would operate in the city.

Keep in mind that just because there is one less background check for drivers, it doesn’t mean that getting a ride in Pullman will become less safe.

“After a full analysis, the bottom line to us was that using a name and fingerprint based background would not increase the safety risk to riders in Pullman,” Jenkins said. “And we felt that those backgrounds would be sufficient for this purpose, so we created an ordinance that will accommodate companies like Uber and Lyft.”

Jenkins added that the new ordinance, in place of the fingerprint check, will actually use stricter criteria in terms of looking at a potential driver’s criminal history and driving history than the previous taxi ordinances had. Both of the new companies have their own rules regarding drivers that go beyond the law in ensuring safety for customers.

Having more options for transportation discourages people from making potentially dangerous or illegal decisions, such as driving after drinking or using drugs. If there are more options for people to get home safely, people are less likely to make risky or illegal choices.

Allowing Uber and Lyft to operate in Pullman is not just safe — it’s necessary, given the city’s growing population. Jenkins said the Pullman taxi market reached capacity before the new ordinance was passed, putting enormous strain on the current companies working in the city.

“We heard from one of the taxi operators in town that during peak time, they cannot keep up with the demand,” Jenkins said.

On top of the necessity for more transportation options in Pullman, Uber just makes sense. The private ride-sharing market can easily grow to fit Pullman’s demand and make the city more accessible to residents and visitors alike. The cell phone app model of Uber and Lyft is safe, efficient, easy and convenient, and young people are used to it. It’s about time Pullman got on board.