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Rideshare one step closer to new regulations

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Rideshare programs like Uber and Lyft are one step closer to getting a new set of rules more along the lines of ride-for-hire services like a taxi cab.

Carl Gaskins, a driver with Thunder Cab, said "They're kind of plugging up all of the loop holes so that and bringing them into the regulations."

City Council voted Tuesday to move forward with rules for ridesharing companies.

The proposal would require an annual license and permit from the city as well as an annual inspection and more thorough background check.

"What we've asked these companies to do is to assure to is that those background checks would include a check of a person's criminal history and traffic history through the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation," Assistant City Manager M.T. Berry said.

Currently rideshare programs operate through a smartphone app. Drivers pick up riders using their personal vehicle. It's a lot like carpooling.

No money is exchanged between the driver and the rider, and the fees are charged straight to a credit card through the app.

"Rideshare is a misnomer," Gaskins said. "They're not sharing anything. They're vehicles for hire."

Currently they don't comply with the same rules as limousines, taxis and other ride-for-hire services, but that's changing.

"There are cities all around the country that are looking at this and some that have passed it," Berry said.

City officials realize the changes won't be popular, but say the rideshare companies are cooperating.

A Lyft representative released a statement saying "...we look forward to continuing to work with the Council to preserve the safe rides and economic opportunity ridesharing provides to the residents of Oklahoma City."

City leaders like the overall compliance in creating a safer experience for the public.

"We believe their business model and we hope that they understand our business model and we're trying our best to merge those two," Berry said.

A public hearing will be held August 26 at City Hall. After that a final decision to approve the proposed ordinances will be made Sept. 9.