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Council hails free rides from Uber

Council hails free rides from Uber

January 4th, 2017 by Sam Richardson in News

State Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, speaks at a Jefferson City Council meeting Tuesday in the John G. Christy Municipal Building. The agenda included discussion and approval of a bill that would allow Uber to operate for free on Inauguration Day, which would require a waiving of procedure.

Photo by Shelby Kardell /News Tribune.

POLL: Should the Jefferson City Council amend its vehicle-for-hire ordinance to allow companies like Uber to operate in the city anytime?

Thanks to the unusually swift maneuvering of the Jefferson City Council on Tuesday night, free ride-sharing and free parking will be available to the thousands of visitors trekking to the Capital City on Monday for the inaugural of Gov.-elect Eric Greitens.

Mayor Carrie Tergin convinced her Council colleagues Tuesday that Jefferson City wants to be welcoming in every way when the Capitol, the Capitol grounds, downtown and area hotels are jammed with Missourians joining in the activities associated with the swearing in of the state's 56th governor.

The mayor's definition of "welcoming" includes the presence of the trendy transportation network company (TNC) Uber and what Uber's local representative promised will be at least 150 clean and insured vehicles driven for free by clean and polite drivers.

Extending her theme of making Jefferson City "welcoming" on inauguration day, the mayor also won Council approval for special legislation to provide free parking throughout the city Monday — everywhere but in handicapped, bus and loading zones. It's her wish, she said, that each visitor goes home with a positive image of Jefferson City and without a parking ticket.

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Waiving normal procedures, the Council unanimously passed the ordinance providing Uber, the app-based, ride-hailing service, a one-day permit to do business in the Capital City. In response to an inquiry from City Ward 3 Councilwoman Erin L. Wiseman, city counselor Ryan Moehlman said the ordinance would be effective from 8 a.m. Monday through 9 a.m. Tuesday. All Uber rides will be free Monday.

Uber presented an effective story line to the Council, led by Becky Lohmann of Catalyst, Uber's Jefferson City lobbyists. She fielded questions about licensing, inspection and insurance, noting each driver had been "properly vetted" with recent background checks on his or her driving records. Lohmann introduced an Uber driver who identified himself only as David who explained how he and his colleagues operate and that he drove from Jefferson City to Columbia to practice the craft.

Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, spoke persuasively about the ride-sharing service and encouraged the Council to allow the service at least on the temporary, one-day basis.

Tergin's enthusiasm for the innovation closed the deal for the proposal, offered by Ward 2 Councilman J. Rick Mihalevich.

"As the Capital City, we can be a leader in the state, and are proud to look at innovative services and new business models such as Uber," she said. "We welcome bringing this new service, while also appreciating our existing businesses and taxi services in our community, and look forward to collaboration which will lead to convenience for our citizens and visitors. I am proud that Jefferson City can offer a positive, proactive approach to welcoming a new administration, new legislators, friends, family and guests."

The mayor and other city officials emphasized Tuesday night that Tom Landwehr, owner of the city's Checker Cab operation, was supportive of Uber's influx of ride-sharing vehicles for the inauguration. He told News Tribune reporters last week, "I support Uber getting a temporary permit to help during a particularly busy time with the Inauguration because it's in the best interest of the city."

Landwehr's Checker service boasts a dozen vehicles.