Uber set to ride in DC with new legislation to support transportation startups

Uber won a legislative battle on Tuesday in D.C., with the City Council unanimously approving legislation that will regulate, rather than eliminate, transportation startups like Uber in the city along with traditional taxi and sedan services.

The company has seriously struggled with regulatory issues and opposition from cab companies in a variety of cities, from San Francisco — where it’s being sued by cab drivers for unfair competition — to Chicago — where the cab drivers sued the company for pocketing driver tips — to New York — where the company’s taxi service failed to overcome local cab regulations. A win that could lead to a sizable D.C. presence will likely boost Uber’s outlook for the new year, as it attempts to win over local governments as well as loyal customers.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick wrote a blog post praising the D.C. city government on Tuesday, and explaining what it will mean for Uber:

Today the DC Council unanimously passed a legislative framework for “digital dispatch” that is pro-innovation, pro-consumer, and pro-driver. It will not only improve transportation in the District, but also serve as an innovative model for city transportation legislation across the country.

Kalanick wrote that the legislation, which still needs approval from Mayor Vince Gray, accomplishes a few priorities that Uber pushed for:

It explicitly defines a separate class of for-hire vehicles, sedans, that operate through digital dispatch and charge by time and distance.

It creates a single operator license for taxis, sedans and limousines and requires the DC Taxi Commission to actually issue licenses after a long four-year hiatus.

It sets new standards for price transparency that will benefit consumers.

And, above all, it brings regulatory certainty to the vehicle-for-hire marketplace – making it very clear that Uber and its partners, the licensed/regulated sedan companies and drivers, can’t be regulated out of existence.

Many cities have drastically different approaches to taxi and transportation regulation, as well as supply and demand for those services, but if D.C. manages to work with Uber and keep the startup and traditional taxis happy, it’s an interesting model to watch.