Just a decade ago, the idea of using your cellphone to get ride from a complete stranger, driving their personal car, seemed ludicrous. But with more than 10 billion rides completed, this idea is not only accepted, but commonplace in many places around the world.
However, in Louisiana, many are still left out of the ridesharing revolution that has taken place over much of the globe.
Louisiana is just one of five states that does not have a regulatory framework to allow rideshare companies, such as Lyft and Uber, to operate statewide. Due to a lack of this framework, many cities in Louisiana either lack access to ridesharing altogether or are subject to extra regulations and fees. This means a loss of jobs and opportunity for the people of our state.
Additionally, Louisianans who are both looking for a safe, quick, and affordable ride and those who are looking for extra cash to help with car payments and other bills are often out of luck. Without permissive regulations, many people in Louisiana find themselves stranded by the side of the road… with no ride in sight.
Implementing a statewide ridesharing framework would solve this problem by providing clear guidance to the rideshare companies about the rules of the road when operating in the state. Without these guidelines, Louisiana is instead left with a mishmash of local regulations that are confusing for companies and citizens alike.
Some leaders in the Louisiana legislature, however, are not resting on their laurels as the Pelican State fades in the rearview mirror. HB 575 by Rep. Tanner Magee (R-Houma) would create the regulatory framework our state needs. The measure easily passed the House by a vote of 92-0.
While such overwhelming support would usually suggest a quick and painless passage for such a commonsense law, nothing is ever simple in the state of Louisiana. Similar legislation failed in the Senate last session due to the taxicab lobby working hard to defeat the bill.
Unfortunately, history may repeat itself in the Senate this year. Amendments were added to the legislation that would allow previous local regulations to stay in place. These regulations apply taxes and fees to rides and limits where rideshare companies can drop off their riders. These local regulations were enacted in the first place to make taxicabs more competitive with rideshare companies and to tax riders to fill local coffers. These amendments perfectly encapsulate the status quo in the state working to benefit special interests at the expense of everyone else.
Thankfully, these amendments were removed in the Senate Finance committee.
At a time when ridesharing has become commonplace across the country, and even the rest of the world, Louisiana is still lagging behind. Let’s hope that common sense prevails at the state capitol and the hard-working citizens of Louisiana will finally have access to the rides they need and the income opportunities they deserve.