Uber to stay in Honolulu despite city council’s passage of ride-sharing bill


Despite lengthy protests and threats to leave, Uber says it is staying in Honolulu.

The Honolulu City Council approved a measure 8-1 Wednesday to establish regulations for taxis and transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft.

It also set up a central database where drivers have to register.

View Bill 36 and its progress in the City Council here.

“We just want everything to be fair. What’s good for the taxi companies is good for the TNCs and vice versa,” Ann Kobayashi, chair of the city council’s budget committee, previously told KHON2.

Koyabashi introduced the initial bill, along with several new amendments Wednesday, which passed in this final vote.

Taxi cab companies have long complained that TNCs have been unregulated in Hawaii, giving them an unfair advantage.

But at Wednesday’s council hearing, both sides were against Bill 36.

“It doesn’t make sense that while the council claims to protect the consumer, in reality they have reduced the protection and favor the TNCs to operate in Hawaii with no rules and total disregard of consumer protection in this bill,” said Howard Higa of The Cab.

“Government regulation is not always the answer, because I know you feel like government needs to protect the people, but ultimately who’s going to protect us from the government?” argued Timothy Moore, a driver for Uber and Lyft.

But after hours of testimony, council members approved it, saying it will help level the playing field and it’s a good first step.

Uber had threatened to shut down in Honolulu if the bill became law, claiming it would not be able to operate under the bill’s restrictive measures. While the company says it is disappointed by the decision, it won’t leave just yet.

“I think it remains to be seen as we observe the implementation of this law,” said Brian Hughes, general manager of Uber Hawaii. “As the council said, this is viewed as a starting point, so we’re very committed to continuing to collaborate with the local government.”

Uber says it will hurt the more than 5,000 drivers it has, who work mostly part-time and would be forced to pay extra to get certified.

“What exactly about the bill hurts Uber the most?” KHON2 asked.

“Very simple issues like having a two-hour a week driver put a permanent change to their car and create unnecessary red tape so they can use their personal vehicle with their existing driver’s license to support their own families,” said Hughes.

Chelsea Wilson, Lyft’s senior policy communications manager, released the following statement after the vote:

Tens of thousands of people on Oahu use Lyft as way to make ends meet and easily get around the island. Requiring part-time drivers to comply with unnecessary rules and costly licensing processes forces ridesharing into one-size-fits-all taxi regulations. As the Councilmembers themselves recognized, there are numerous issues with the language passed today that must be resolved before implementation. We urge the Council to continue working with all stakeholders to revise the bill and keep modern, innovative transportation options like Lyft on Oahu.

Meanwhile taxi companies say the bill doesn’t do enough to protect customers, because TNC drivers still won’t be required to submit their fingerprints into the database.

It also doesn’t address surge pricing, which allows TNCs to raise prices when demand is high.

“When they had flooding in Pearl City, they actually had surge pricing five times. Now is this good for the consumer? That was my concern,” said Higa.

Bill 36 now goes to Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who has 10 business days to review it.

If he approves, the new regulations will take effect on Jan. 15, 2017.

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