For 12 hours starting at 4 p.m. on Thursday, riders in San Antonio and Bexar County can use the mobile application that connects riders to drivers of personal vehicles for a free ride. Riders are asked to limit trips to under 20 miles – presumably to save time and gas money of the limited amount of drivers available.
As long as Uber drivers are not paid by riders, then neither the company nor the driver is violating the local law passed in March that requires rideshare/transportation network companies (TNCs) to undergo fingerprinting, background checks, have special insurance, and comply with other registration rules. Rideshare companies said the requirements were too onerous and ceased operations on April 1, presumably to wait and see what happens with state legislation currently being considered that may override local rideshare laws across the state with less-strict requirements.
Violation of the local ordinance carries a $500 fine and/or impoundment of the driver’s vehicle.
Hundreds of residents that were using rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft since they began operation in March 2014 have called for a repeal of the local ordinance. But many residents join the traditional taxi industry in their praise of the new ordinance – which they say rightfully minimizes public safety concerns.
In addition to gaining some goodwill with San Antonians by providing rides during one of the city’s drunkest times, the rideshare company’s offer is also a political move.
Mayoral candidates Mike Villarreal and Leticia Van de Putte have said they would take another look at the ordinance to allow rideshare companies to operate in San Antonio. Mayoral candidate Tommy Adkisson has not gone so far as to say that regulations should change to allow Lyft and Uber to operate, but that the lawmaking “process” should be respected. Mayor Ivy Taylor, who is running to serve a full term as mayor, has stood by the ordinance passed in March, adamantly supporting fingerprint identification as a key to effective federal background checks.
“How can you help #BringBackUberSA permanently? Get out and vote on May 9th,” states an Uber press release.
For now, for one night, San Antonians can enjoy a free ride.
*Featured/top image: Photo via Uber’s Instagram account.