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New Uber Ordinance Moving Slowly Through Burlington's City Council

A revised vehicle-for-hire ordinance may be headed to the Burlington City Council soon.

When the Internet-based car service Uber began operating in Burlington in 2014, officials said it had violated the city's vehicle-for-hire ordinance. The service continued to operate under an interim agreement while the City Council promised to revise the ordinance by November of that year.

It's taken a bit longer than planned, but a new ordinance might be headed to the Burlington City Council very soon.

The city Ordinance Committee last week carefully dissected proposed new rules for vehicles for hire. One of the most contentious areas of debate has been around background checks.

Under the revised ordinance, companies such as Uber would have the option to conduct their own background checks. Prior to these revisions, the city conducted all background checks on people who wanted to drive taxies.

Uber conducts its own background checks on drivers. It doesn’t release the names of their drivers because the company views that information as propriety.

Zach Hughes is Uber’s operations manager for the New England region. When questioned by Ward 2 Progressive Council member Max Tracy, Hughes said he could not release key details about the company's operations. 

According to an agreement between Uber and the city, Burlington would be allowed to inspect the documents of 25 Uber drivers who completed at least one trip in the past month. The city would get to check the drivers' records twice a year.

None of the drivers will be identified by name. Instead, they would be assigned a unique number.

Assistant city attorney Gregg Meyer told the committee that the city was comfortable with this system.

“We recognize that across the country, cities of our size or even larger are actually operating under less numbers of samples when they do their audit procedures,” he said.

At the close of the meeting, Committee Chair William Mason asked the council to move forward.

“I think we’re at a point where we need to deliver something,” he said.

The ordinance committee is meeting again on Feb. 2 to discuss the changes to the ordinance and possibly pass it on to the full city council.

Liam is Vermont Public’s public safety reporter, focusing on law enforcement, courts and the prison system.
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