Paul A. Bell, President and CEO, for the San Antonio Express-News.
The engine of economic development has been humming in San Antonio. After decades of the city’s best and brightest leaving San Antonio in search of opportunities elsewhere, San Antonio is now a destination for people seeking opportunity.
Innovation and technology have been driving San Antonio’s economic growth. But with its 7-2 vote to impose some of the strictest ridesharing regulations in the nation, City Council has slammed its fingers in the car door.
Despite District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg’s reasoned call for the City Council’s vote to be postponed to allow time to review last-minute amendments to the ordinance, the council, under pressure from taxi and limousine operators, rammed through regulations adding one more speed bump to San Antonio’s growth potential.
By imposing restrictive regulations on part-time drivers ($175 permits that must be applied for and received in person, 10-fingerprint background checks, $200,000 liability insurance to cover the costs of accidents that exceed the driver’s policy limits when waiting for a fare), San Antonio has virtually banned Transportation Network Companies, like Uber and Lyft. In doing so the city has not only made it easier for existing transportation providers to reset their customer service on cruise control, it has also made itself less attractive to potential new businesses, visiting trade organizations, tourists and entrepreneurs who have grown accustomed to having ridesharing options available everywhere.
While it’s likely the ordinance passed by the City Council will have an impact on San Antonio’s economy, it’s certain to have a head-on impact in the way the city is perceived by the rest of the country and the world. San Antonio technology companies are already fighting an uphill battle when it comes to recruiting the next generation of innovators.
Not having a ridesharing option is going to make that hill even steeper. “San Antonio? Why would I want to move there? Real cities have ridesharing, why doesn’t San Antonio? What else don’t they have?”
City leaders in Dallas and Austin — indeed around the world — have found ways to support their economies and bring modern amenities to their citizenry while San Antonio has added yet another reason for progressive businesses and entrepreneurs to pass it by.
This ordinance, with its impact on both San Antonio’s current residents and the city’s ability to attract the best and brightest to contribute to its future, is clearly a short-sighted slam-on-the-brakes reaction to a green light. It should be reviewed and amended immediately in order to once again put the Alamo City in the fast lane of growth.