ROCHESTER, Minn. – After a marathon meeting on Monday that lasted more than nine hours, the Rochester City Council voted to put the brakes on a proposed TNC ordinance that would allow Transportation Network Companies like Uber and Lyft to operate within the city.
The public hearing on the TNC ordinance was the last item on a jam-packed agenda Monday evening, which included 12 other public hearings. Despite the long meeting, which finally adjourned around 4:15 a.m. Tuesday, several people stayed for the long haul to give their input.
The city heard testimony from several people, including representatives from both Uber and area Taxi Cab companies. After the hearing closed, the council voted and the ordinance failed on a 3-3 vote. Council Members Nick Campion, Michael Wojcik and Mark Bilderback voted in favor, and Mark Hickey, Ed Hruska, and Council President Randy Staver voted against the proposed ordinance. Council Member Sandra Means had to leave the meeting before the vote.
Campion tells us this is no doubt another setback and that he is determined to get a TNC ordinance passed calling it, “long overdue.”
“I hope that people will contact their council members with their opinions about this,” he explains. “It’s something that I think would serve the city’s interest very well and I think if we’re serious about doing Destination Medical Center, we need to step up to the plate to deliver these services that residents, visitors and patients all desire.”
Staver says he had concerns over whether TNCs would be “fair competition” to the existing cab companies.
“For example,” Staver explains. “Taxi companies are required to have a fleet of at least 15 cabs and provide 24 hour service. Drivers for companies such as Uber operate as independent contractors and may operate whenever they choose. TNC operators may also use ‘surge pricing’ meaning they may charge according to demand, i.e. higher demand likely means a higher price for service. The cab companies are asking for similar consideration. The Council has received and edited version of the current taxi cab ordinance from one of the taxi companies with suggested changes that they feel would make the market equitable.”
Campion says that Uber “opened the door” by sending multiple representatives to city meetings, and that he didn’t feel the council members that had some dissent showed up with changes that were to be evaluated.
“Frankly, at 4 a.m. it’s probably not the best time to be trying to hammer out some of these changes. I just wish that we would get a little more proactive with things we’re looking to change about ordinances that are coming before the council. I think there’s some personal responsibility that needs to be taken for bringing those forward in a way that it can be a thumbs up/thumbs down move forward vote so that we can get business done,” Campion adds.
For those in support of TNCs, the end result of the lengthy meeting was frustrating. Rochester resident Chad Allen stayed up to watch the meeting play out via the live stream.
“I get that they’re looking out for the drivers and the cab companies, but they also need to look out for the rest of the city,” says Allen. “An overwhelming majority of Rochester citizens and visitors want a ride sharing platform and to just dismiss all of those voters and to draw this out even further, it’s not okay.”
Allen started a Change.org petition following the council vote. As of Tuesday evening, more than 200 people had signed it.
“If Rochester wants to continue to be a world class city, or to become one, we need to listen to constituents and not businesses,” Allen adds.