Baton Rouge Metro Council opens door for ride sharing companies

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Baton Rouge Metro Council approved several measures Wednesday night that opened the door for ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in East Baton Rouge Parish.

Ride sharing companies link private drivers with riders in need through computer and mobile applications, but opponents say the ordinance changes do not hold these new groups up to the same standards taxi companies have to abide by.

"To actually give them carte blanche and eliminate them from all regulations that any other for hire transportation has in east Baton Rouge parish is not in my opinion fair and pretty illogical," said Yellow Cab Manager Keith Wyckoff.

Several speakers representing Uber told the council that the company has selected Baton Rouge because the need is there.

"What we've found in a lot of cities is the taxi cab industry is unreliable, sometimes unprofessional and what we've heard in our research in Baton Rouge is that the taxi cab industry has just been unavailable," said Brian Trascher.

Some council members like Scott Wilson questioned Uber's insurance requirements and asked for more time to research the companies track record in other cities, but Councilman John Delgado, who authored the ordinances, argued change will always be challenged by those who feel bottom lines may be threatened.

"Restaurants didn't want food trucks to come to Baton Rouge but we see all the good that's come with that. We see that new jobs have been brought, we see that our citizens have been satisfied and given new options in what they eat and where they eat and you know what? All the doom and gloom, the sky is falling hasn't happened," said Delgado.

"Problem I've got is the regulation and the level playing field. That's the problem I've got between the taxi and Uber. It's not a level playing field," said Wilson.

In the end, the ordinances were approved with Wilson and Chauna Banks Daniel - the only two members who voted against them. Council Member Tara Wicker says the changes will keep Baton Rouge moving forward.

"Whether you like it or not we are becoming a big city and at some point we have to start thinking and acting like a big city so I think that those options being made available to other individuals is perfect it pushes us in the right direction," said Wicker.

The changes are scheduled to go into effect July 7. 

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