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Uber points to DC regulations as model for Charlotte

Executives at Uber, the ride-sharing service that’s disrupting the taxi industry, pointed Wednesday to regulations passed this week by Washington, D.C., as a model for Charlotte and other cities struggling with how to regulate such services.

The Charlotte City Council had been set to consider regulations that would have required drivers for Uber, its competitor Lyft and similar services to pass city-conducted background checks and have their cars inspected. Taxi drivers protested because they said the proposed regulations were too loose and put them at a disadvantage against the new smartphone-based services.

But the council tabled the regulations in September, deciding instead to wait and see what the N.C. General Assembly does next year.

On Tuesday, the District of Columbia’s City Council passed new regulations for ride-sharing companies. Among other measures, the regulations require a background check going back seven years, conducted by a third party, annual safety inspections and insurance coverage of $1 million while driving passengers.

“I think that D.C.’s a terrific model,” said David Plouffe, Uber’s senior vice president for policy and strategy, during a conference call Wednesday. “Now there are some good examples for cities like Charlotte to look to.”

Here’s how ride-sharing services work: Riders summon a driver with an app on their smartphone, which shows them how far the car is. Drivers for Uber’s most popular service, UberX, and Lyft use their personal cars to ferry passengers. Payment is made with a pre-loaded credit card, and the fare is based on a combination of length of the ride and base price, which varies based on demand.

Uber and Lyft had objected to Charlotte’s proposed regulations as too strict. They said requiring part-time drivers using their own cars to pass city-conducted background checks would be too onerous and make it hard to recruit drivers.

Cab drivers in many cities have fought against ride-sharing services. They protested the D.C. decision Tuesday by circling the city’s municipal building and slowing Pennsylvania Avenue traffic to a crawl.

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