Uber and other app-based ride services seem here to stay after a state law that makes it legal for the companies to operate was passed this week.

In Montgomery County, where members of the County Council have been debating Uber-related issues for months, the law could mean a 25-cent surcharge on all rides.

Councilmember Roger Berliner has been at the center of the Council’s debate on transportation network companies such as Uber and traditional taxi cab companies that claim they’re at a competitive disadvantage. The taxi industry is among the most heavily regulated in the county.

Uber, meanwhile, is a relatively new service that hasn’t faced the same type of driver background checks, vehicle maintenance requirements and licensing.

The state bill would require Uber drivers to go through fingerprint-based background checks if the Maryland Public Service Commission deems it’s necessary for public safety. It would also allow local governments to impose a 25-cent surcharge on Uber or Lyft rides.

That surcharge would go toward better service for the disabled in taxis. Berliner said Tuesday he hopes to introduce an amendment to the county bill he proposed that would create the surcharge.

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“I believe very strongly that this surcharge should be dedicated to providing additional resources for taxi service for the disabled,” Berliner announced in a statement about the state law. “Too often, members of our disabled community are unable to get a taxi in a timely manner. With more financial incentives for drivers, we can provide more rides for our disabled residents.”
Gov. Larry Hogan is expected to sign the bill, which would finalize what some have said is a clear win for companies like Uber.

“Thanks to your support uberX now has a permanent home in Maryland,” read a blog post from the company Tuesday.

Berliner, who testified on the bill, said he thinks it’s the right move.
“In all, I think that this legislation helps us to achieve a safer, more equitable transportation system in our state,” he said. “At the same time, we have created an environment where innovative companies like Uber and Lyft can truly thrive. And that I think is a real victory.”
A staff member said the Berliner-chaired Transportation Committee will continue its work on a related bill that could bring changes to the traditional taxi cab industry.
Flickr photo via Mike

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