Massachusetts Ride Sharing Bill

Ride-sharing service companies have been in the news lately, making headlines as the state attempts to regulate this burgeoning industry.

On March 9, the House of Representatives approved ride-sharing legislation setting standards and creating a regulatory framework for the industry.  House Bill 4064 calls for background checks, vehicle inspections and other requirements for vetting ride-sharing companies and their drivers to ensure there are proper safeguards in place to protect the public.

One of the more controversial aspects of the House bill is a provision that would impose a five-year ban prohibiting ride-sharing companies that are not registered as liveries from accepting prearranged rides from Logan Airport and the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.  If the language survives the legislative process, it would mean that Uber, Lyft and other popular companies would not be able to pick up customers at Logan and the convention center until August 1, 2021.

The bill also specifies that Boston taxi drivers would continue to have an exclusive arrangement at Logan Airport, unless MassPort officials determine Boston taxis cannot meet demand during peak hours.  Even if MassPort were to make such a determination, however, the bill would require Cambridge and Somerville taxis to be called in to assist with picking up fares at the airport, while retaining the ban on ride-for-hire drivers.

During the recent House floor debate, I filed an amendment to strike these provisions from the bill in order to provide a level playing field for everyone and to ensure that consumers have more choice.

Allowing ride-sharing services to accept prearranged rides at the airport is not a unique concept.  In fact, Washington Dulles, Reagan National, San Francisco and Portland are just a few of the airports that already allow this practice.  In some cases, airports have reached agreements with these companies requiring them to pay a trip fee for pickups and drop-offs, or to obtain a permit to pick up passengers, which are all reasonable requests.

Recognizing the pro-business and pro-consumer aspects of the amendment, members of the House Republican caucus were unanimous in their support for lifting the ban.  Unfortunately, only three Democrats backed the amendment, which was ultimately defeated on a vote of 37-118.

The state of Massachusetts and the city of Boston have long been considered hubs of innovation, but the 5-year ban goes against this image, and is one of the reasons I voted against the House bill.  It’s disappointing that so many legislators feel the need to impose such a ban, which effectively restricts consumer choice and stifles innovation.

House Bill 4064 is currently under review by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, and is expected to reach the Senate floor for debate before the end of formal sessions in July.

Moving forward, it is important that Massachusetts take steps to embrace and encourage the innovative technology and transportation service model that ride-sharing companies provide.  Otherwise, it will be the consumer who will pay the price.

Representative Bradley Jones (R) is the Massachusetts House Minority Leader.