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Baton Rouge approves ride sharing companies

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News,Business,Transportation,Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The East Baton Rouge Metro Council has voted to allow ride sharing companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar to operate in Baton Rouge.

The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1wAyKYb ) taxi cab representatives asked the council Wednesday to reject the vote on the basis that the technology companies would be subject to looser regulations and allowed to charge whatever they want.

Baton Rouge taxi and limo drivers had said prior to Wednesday's meeting that an attempt by the Metro Council to allow ridesharing companies into the market would create public safety concerns and an uneven playing field for transportation services.

The new local ordinances approved by the council Wednesday are designed to attract tech transportation companies to Baton Rouge. These services allow passengers to use smartphone apps to hail rides from amateur drivers, often using their personal vehicles. Riders use their phones to pay with credit cards, with the company and the driver each taking a cut.

Council members sponsoring the ordinances say there are too few taxis in Baton Rouge and the existing ones are too slow to respond. They argue the dearth of available taxis in the city has created a void that can be filled by the ridesharing companies.

In order to operate a taxi in Baton Rouge, drivers must have a state chauffeur license and get their vehicles and meters inspected twice a year. Taxi drivers go to the city police annually to be fingerprinted and photographed. Police also verify they don't have criminal records.

Cab fares are set by the Metro Council and the taxi board commission.

The proposed ordinance would require criminal background and driving-record checks for the ridesharing companies, but the onus is on the companies rather than the city police to do them.

Councilman John Delgado said the technology used by the companies creates accountability, because riders get to see drivers' profiles on their smartphones and can rate the driver and the vehicle.

Ridesharing services operating in Baton Rouge, under the ordinance, will be required to do background checks on potential drivers, inspect vehicles, establish zero-tolerance policies for drug and alcohol use, and prohibit riders from "street hails."

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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