Assembly halts efforts to ease regulations on local taxicab services indefinitely

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - An effort by the Anchorage Assembly to ease regulations on the transportation-for-hire industry, has been placed on hold indefinitely. The regulations impact taxi cabs and limousines, in order to put them on an even regulatory playing field with ride share services like Uber and Lyft.

The Assembly has made past attempts to even up this regulatory disparity since the Alaska State Senate legalized ride share services in 2017.

The most recent attempt to help taxis gain footing in a competitive ride service market involved modifying Anchorage’s permitting regulations. According to assembly documents, the modified regulations would “change to a market-based open entry approach with a five-year phase-in period, with the objective of removing excessive barriers to entry, increase competitiveness among taxicab permit owners and with other transportation options."

Taxi drivers responded to this saying that “more work could be done,” and the five-year phase in plan was “too long to convert to a completely open entry system.”

Assembly member Christopher Constant says throughout this process, he's participated in joint committee meetings with representatives from both taxi and ride share services -- and they haven’t always gone well.

“In fact, there was almost a fight at one of our committee meetings between people on different sides of this question,” Constant said.

After these extended efforts to appease both sides, the Assembly threw up its hands at its regular meeting on Tuesday, when members voted to delay an ordinance indefinitely that would have significantly reduced municipal regulation of taxicabs, limousines, and other vehicles for hire.

“The wholesale deregulation was abrupt and harsh,” Constant said. But that doesn’t mean the wheels have stopped turning in this local clash of transportation service providers.

“We’ll come back to the conversation sometime this summer,” Constant said on Tuesday. “And look closely at the regulatory scheme that we have, and ways to make it less burdensome on the taxicab industry, so they can be more competitive with transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft.”

In the meantime, the City of Anchorage will continue operating under current Title 11 transportation regulations pertaining to taxicabs, chauffeurs and dispatch services.

The Assembly also said goodbye to three members who stepped down from their seats after Tuesday’s meeting: Gretchen Wehmhoff for District 2, Eagle River / Chugiak, Eric Croft who was serving as Assembly Chair, and after 19 years of service to the City of Anchorage, Dick Traini retired from his District 4, Midtown, seat.

Click here for Tuesday’s full agenda.

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