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Arizona bill sets off debate between taxis, Uber

PHOENIX — Taxi and rideshare companies are squaring off as the Arizona Legislature mulls a bill that would give rideshares an exception from certain regulations.

“Arizona really is the most free and open for-hire transportation market anywhere in the country today,” said Mike Pinckard, president of Gilbert, Ariz.-based Discount Cab. “Anybody can come into this market with as many vehicles, as many drivers (as they want). There’s no limits on rates, there’s very few consumer protections and safety protections required to operate in this market. Anybody can be here.”

The issue at hand, according to Pinckard, comes down to a regulation that requires cab companies such as Discount to carry certain insurance at all times. If House Bill 2262 is approved, rideshare services, such as Uber and Lyft, would be exempt from that requirement.

“They’re simply not buying insurance on the vehicles as required by the law,” he said. “That’s all this is about.”

However, HB 2262 would require services such as Uber to carry a $1 million policy and conduct background checks, something the rideshare company said it already does.

“From the moment that a rider enters the vehicle through the end of that trip, there is $1 million in insurance coverage per incident,” said Uber spokesperson Nairi Hourdajian. “In addition, that $1 million extends to uninsured and underinsured drivers as well, meaning that no matter who is at fault, there is coverage in place.”

Hourdajian also said Uber requires drivers to pass a comprehensive background check that includes both a criminal and driving history along with a sex offender screening.

So what is the argument really about? According to Hourdajian, it’s about fear of competition.

“This is really about that the taxi industry has been underserving Arizonans for decades and Uber is different,” she said. “Uber is different because Arizonans can get a ride when they want one. It’s different because drivers who are utilizing the Uber platform…are making better money.”