uber-houston

A fight over regulations could spell the end of Uber in Houston. According to a Houston Chronicle report, the popular transportation service could be exiting Houston due to a dispute in how the city deals with regulatory permits. Meaning, drivers who fail the city’s mandated background check that involves drug testing, warrant checks and fingerprinting cannot be drivers. The only city who has just as strict background testing for drivers is New York City.

“We have worked hard and taken extraordinary steps to help guide drivers through the current process in Houston,” Uber’s Houston manager Sarfraz Maredia told Houston’s City Council in a letter delivered Wednesday afternoon. “However, a year and a half later, it is clear the regulations are simply not working for the people of this city.”

The feud has been on-going since Uber’s arrival in February 2014. In November of that year, the city linked Uber drivers just as they do with cab drivers and limo drivers, forcing them to adhere to the regulations of the other type of drivers. Uber prefers a background check system that is different than the one mandated by the City of Houston and both sides are at an impasse on which system ensures rider safety in regards to drivers.

Houston officials have insisted fingerprint checks are necessary to ensure public safety. The topic received intense scrutiny after a Houston driver was accused of sexually assaulting a passenger. Though a grand jury failed to indict him, the issue divided Uber and Houston because he was operating on the smartphone-based ride hailing platform without a city license.

Since the rules went into effect, Uber officials said 20,000 people have signed up to be drivers in Houston and then not completed the city’s licensing process. As a result, according to a report presented with Maredia’s letter to city officials, fewer part-time drivers in Houston partner with Uber.

[Houston Chronicle]