Ridesharing Legislation

Comment from Will Brownsberger

Thank you, Andrew for this update. I remain concerned about elements of these bills that would operate to limit the availability of ride-sharing. The notion that taxis and ridesharing services should operate on a “level playing field” is misguided — ridesharing services are a new model that should not be subject to the same rules as taxi services.

As ridesharing continues to grow in popularity, there is an increased interest in regulating this rapidly expanding industry.  In Massachusetts, authority to regulate vehicles for hire is granted to the cities and towns.  (M.G.L. Ch. 40, Sec. 22)  The regulations that exist in different cities and towns across Massachusetts do not contemplate the type of service offered by Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft.  The existing TNC business model, does not limit its service within municipal boundaries, but instead offer service to a whole region.  TNCs use  location based software to connect passengers with drivers.  State motor vehicle regulations 540 CMR 2.00, were recently updated to define TNCs as a distinct and new industry, separate from taxi or livery.  These regulations also define a “personal transportation network vehicle,” as a private vehicle rather than a commercial vehicle, which has implications regarding liability insurance.  Although some TNC products use cars registered as livery vehicles, some drivers use their own personal vehicles to offer this service.

Five bills have been filed in this session relative to TNCs.  The different bills offer different flavors of regulation within a few primary areas: state oversight, insurance and public safety.  Brief summaries of the bills are below:

H.3702, “An Act relative to passenger safety”Rep. Moran & Sen. Forry

This bill grants the Department of Public Utilities oversight of TNCs, funded by an assessment on the industry.  It would require all TNC vehicles be registered as livery vehicles, which would require more expensive commercial insurance.  TNC drivers are required to have a $1 million liability policy, at all times, even when the vehicle is not in use as a TNC vehicle.  It would require extensive background checks, including a fingerprint test submitted checked against an FBI database.  Drivers would be required to submit to random and “reasonable suspicion” drug testing.  Drivers would have to be at least 21 years of age.  All vehicles would be required to be five model years old or newer and externally marked as TNC vehicles.  Every driver must have photographic identification displayed in the vehicle available at all times.  Surge pricing would be eliminated to keep in line with taxis which are required to charge a fixed fare.  TNCs would be required to maintain a 100:1 ratio of vehicles to wheelchair accessible vehicles.  TNCs would be barred from operating at the airport unless authorized to do so by the MassPort.

H.3351 “An Act Establishing Department of Public Utilities Oversight of Transportation Network Companies”Governor Baker

This bill will also grant oversight of the industry to Department of Public Utilities, funded by an assessment on the industry.   It requires $1,000,000 of insurance coverage for death or personal injury provided by the TNC or the driver, or some combination thereof, while the driver is “engaged” in a ride.  While the driver is logged on to the app, the driver’s personal automobile insurance policy shall not provide any coverage unless the policy expressly provides for it.  Drivers must be at least 21 years of age and are subject to comprehensive background checks.  Vehicles must registered in the Commonwealth and inspected annually.

H.931 “An Act relative to transportation network company services” – Rep. Pignatelli

This bill grants the Department of Public Utilities oversight of the industry.  It requires $1,000,000 of coverage for death or personal injury provided by the TNC, but only while the driver is engaging in “TNC Services” – which starts when a ride is accepted and ends when the passenger exits the vehicle.  The driver’s personal automobile insurance policy shall not provide any coverage while the TNC app is on, unless the policy expressly provides for it.  This bill requires the TNC drivers be subject to comprehensive background checks.  Drivers are required to be at least 19 years of age.  Vehicles are required to satisfy the safety and emissions requirements of the state in which the vehicle is registered.  If the TNC cannot provide wheelchair-accessible vehicles, the TNC must arrange for alternate transportation for the passenger, if available.

S.559 “An Act relative to transportation network company insurance”Sen. Timilty

As the title of this bill implies, it focuses on insurance requirements.  This bill allows TNC drivers to use personal vehicles.  TNCs are required to provide insurance as long as the driver is logged into the app in the amounts of $100,000/$300,000 per person/per accident for bodily injury or death and $50,000 for property damage.  While the driver is logged on to the app, the driver’s personal automobile insurance policy shall not provide any coverage unless the policy expressly provides for it.  The bill requires that TNCs inform drivers in writing about the limits of the insurance offered by the TNC while the vehicle is being used for TNC services.

H. 3537 “An Act further regulating ride sharing programs”Rep. Collins

This bill creates definitions of TNCs and TNC drivers, who are not considered employees of the TNC.  It requires that all TNC cars be registered as livery vehicles, which would require commercial insurance.  The bill also imposes a $1 surcharge on every ride originating in Boston or Cambridge to be paid into the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority Fund.

The first four bills listed above were heard by the Joint Committee on Financial Services on September 15th, 2015.  The fifth bill is before the Joint Committee on Transportation and has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.  To see how some of the proposed regulations on TNCs compare to those for taxis, I have posted the Boston Taxi Regulations and Cambridge Taxi Regulations.

Andrew Bettinelli
Legislative Aide
Office of State Senator William N. Brownsberger


9 replies on “Ridesharing Legislation”

  1. H.3702 Is so clearly aimed at killing the Ride Share that it should’ve been thrown out upon introduction.The only benefactor of such bill would be Eddie Tutunjian and like.
    Moran and Forry should be ashamed of themselves for this bill.

    1. If I’m reading the news correctly, the House passed a bill that would ban Ride Sharing pickups at Logan. No bill should even be allowed to come to the Senate floor if it contains such a provision. Obviously, if Ride Sharing is allowed everywhere (or almost everywhere) else, the bill has nothing to do with public safety.

      I think the house bill also bans surge pricing. But I think surge pricing is great. It gets more Ride Shares on the road, so you can actually get one during a snow storm or other situation. Even with the surge pricing, the cost is less that a taxi. And it’s fair to the drivers–if you’re willing to drive when there’s a high need and the driving conditions are unpleasant, you should get more.

  2. I haven’t had a single pleasant experience using cabs in the past 5 years. Cabs are either dirty, or the rides are rough, sometimes borderline dangerous. My friends have given me numerous examples of their own frustrating experiences, when they felt disrespected as customers, the cars in less than pristine shape, the cab driver having loud music up, the cab driver talking on the phone all the time while driving…

    On the other hand, using Uber and Lyft has been as good as a customer experience can get, mostly 5 stars to use their lingo. The ease of getting the ride, the cleanliness of the cars, the behavior of the drivers… all excellent.

    Does level playing field mean that Uber & Lyft have to bring their customer experience down to the cab levels to make politicians happy?

    So, who is our legislature working for? Do they have us citizens in mind when they create these bills or do they care more not to disturb the entrenched interests? I’d really like to know.

  3. Of these proposals, I strongly favour those of Representative Pignatelli and of Senator Timilty, and am against those of representative Collins and of representative Moran and Senator Forry. Senator Timilty’s focus on insurance plugs one of the two major “holes” in the TNC industry without the poison pill of requiring individually registered livery plates. The very purpose of a ridesharing program is to make use of private individuals’ vehicles and time. By turning every private vehicle into a livery vehicle, it, in essence, defeats the purpose of the industry. Representative Pignatelli’s solution also includes background checks, which is the other major “hole,” and I am not averse to million-dollar liability insurance for drivers (as this is fairly standard in my experience). Furthermore, I think the “surcharge fee” for not providing wheelchair access designed to set up a fund to aid in that respect (a nice feature of Rep. Pignatelli’s contribution) is a good path to providing access. (However, as a side note, I also think that automatically denying a company the ability to hire someone as a TNC Driver for being on the National Sex Offender Registry is highly problematic given the inherently inequitable nature of that list (see: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/02/20/too-many-restrictions-on-sex-offenders-or-too-few/panic-leads-to-bad-policy-on-sex-offenders). In my opinion it would be best to allow TNCs to individually vet potentially problematic drivers once they have become party to this information.) I am glad to see progress on this issue, but I strongly advise a “light-touch” approach that does not require individual drivers to submit to such registration as would make them no longer individual drivers but rather taxi drivers by another name.

  4. I suggest that we give the ride-sharing company some space to grow as they are simply more efficient to operate.

    I had wonderful experience with Uber and have been ripped off by tax drivers who intentionally took detours around Boston.

  5. It looks like the first bill is drawing too similar a comparison to track services. As for the insurance, I think it should be regulated, provided either by the tnc or driver; however, I know little of these workings. As for vehicle age and emissions, it seems that if the vehicle is cleared to be on the road by the rmv, then it should be clear to operate as a tnc vehicle. Age restrictions are logical and necessary, but 21 is unfair. There are many 19 and 20 year olds who have to provide for a family and pay bills, and working a second shift as a tnc could mean the difference between staying in poverty or not. This doesn’t even take into account hard working college students who have to pay exorbitant expenses to get an education that may also be one of the only ways to lift themselves out of poverty. That being said, anyone younger than 19 most likely needs more experience noth in driving and in life. Thank you for communicating and taking the time to read this

  6. 3702 looks like a terrible bill that should not even be considered. Ask for the taxi stars, settle for the taxi moon? No. Something that outrageous should just be rejected.

    I approve of insurance regulations and provisions to ensure that rides are available at a fair price (versus other people, not a ban on surge pricing) to anyone who needs them.

    I would very much like to see some movement towards congestion charges and/or support for the MBTA, however I would not want these to be so high as to be counterproductive (e.g., 50 cents per ride tax? 25). That-is/for-example, if someone in Cam/Som/Bos decides to do without a car (a good thing for congestion) they might well want to use Uber or Lyft from time to time, and that would be a net win even if gets them to “no-cars”.

    I just had an idea, might not be popular, but how does the cost of The Ride compare with Uber/Lift? I am sure that there are less-able passengers who can ride in a standard automobile, but use The Ride because they cannot deal with a walk to a bus stop. I’d hate to suggest that Our Hallowed Legislature would be the sort of place that this sort of quid pro quo goes on, but ….

  7. The state should stay out of it. Uber drivers are much better then taxi cabs in the sense they are safer( you know from make, model, and license plate who is picking you up). You don’t have that with cabs. Also, uber is more affordable and available more often then cabs. Cleaner too! Please keep ubers!

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