Rideshare services possible pending city ordinance

News Reporter

City council plans to pass regulations on rideshare services this spring, making alternative transportation in San Marcos a reality.

The ordinance, which is currently being drafted, will apply to transportation networking companies such as Lyft and Uber, said Chase Stapp, San Marcos chief of police.

“(Rideshare services) will provide new transportation options for the community,” said Mayor Daniel Guerrero.

Some companies are operating in the area but do not have official legal status in San Marcos yet, Stapp said.

“I haven’t talked to representatives from either (Uber or Lyft) yet,” Stapp said. “We’ve heard they are operating here but on a limited basis.”

Cities create ordinances specific to rideshare services because the business model differs from that of a taxicab company. Current ordinances are written around the taxicab business model, Stapp said.

“Until we get an ordinance that operates around (the rideshare) business model, they are in violation of the current ordinance,” Stapp said. “It is a priority that we make an ordinance that fits.”

The city is still in “early conversations” about creating an ordinance, he said.

Guerrero wants the city to be “fair” to taxi companies currently operating and those who come in the future.

“Nothing is set in stone,” Guerrero said. “(The city council) would like to learn more about (the rideshare services) first.”

City council proposed Jan. 20 that an ordinance should be geared toward registration rather than regulation, Stapp said.

“I envision something that would require them to register their business and a small registration fee of some kind on an annual basis, performing background checks on drivers and making sure that the equipment is safe,” Stapp said.

The safety of San Marcos citizens is the main priority, Stapp said. The ordinance will be made to fit the rideshare services’ business models and current operating policies.

Stapp will work with the city’s legal department to come up with an ordinance to fit San Marcos’ needs. The ordinance will go to the city council sometime in March for consideration.

Many cities in the state do not limit the amount taxis can charge, but San Marcos set a cap in 2010, Stapp said.

“I can’t tell you for sure if we are going to cap their rates or not,” Stapp said. “I am aware that (cost gap) has been an issue for some cities. Some cities have chosen to use cost gaps, and some haven’t. We haven’t made that decision yet.”

Guerrero hopes San Marcos will and “serve as a model” for implementing a rideshare ordinance.

May Olvera, communication design freshman, said services such as Uber will be “beneficial” because she does not have a car.

“It's so hard to get around town if I want to go to the store because I have to rely on other people,” Olvera said. “With my personal experiences of using Uber, they are really reliable and cheap.”

Stapp said if the services do well, the city could see other start-up companies come on board.

“It kind of is a gut feeling on my part,” Stapp said. “I have nothing to base it on, but I feel like there will be a demand for these services here.”

Guerrero said having such services in San Marcos would create jobs and income for families and improve the city.

“Having other options for transportation will, over time, help with traffic congestion, improve air quality and help with parking,” Guerrero said.