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Southampton passes regulations for Uber, limos, livery cars

Southampton resident and Uber driver David Baz speaks

Southampton resident and Uber driver David Baz speaks in favor of new rules that would affect drivers working for Uber within Southampton Town at a town board meeting on Tuesday, April 12, 2016. Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

A controversial amendment to Southampton’s taxi law that will now make Uber, limousines and livery cars adhere to the same local licensing requirements as cabs was passed by the town board Tuesday.

But the exact amount the companies will pay for their licensing fees will be decided by the board members at a later, unspecified date.

Councilman Stan Glinka proposed the amendment as a way to “level the playing field,” he said, but Uber spokeswoman Alix Anfang said town officials just wanted to find a way to protect local cabbies from competition from the popular app-based international ride hailing service.

The local taxi law requires cab companies to register with the town, pay annual fees and have employees undergo fingerprinting and background checks.

The new legislation was passed after a public hearing Tuesday.

Afterward, Anfang, who has maintained that services such as Uber help prevent drunken driving, said in an emailed statement: “Southampton’s leaders passed a law that puts the interest of local taxi companies ahead of their constituents’ safety, takes away residents’ ability to get a safe, reliable ride home and hurts hardworking Uber driver-partners who are trying to earn a living.”

Noting that representatives from the town and Uber had met in recent weeks to try to come to some agreement before the measure was passed, Anfang added, “We had hoped to reach a productive solution that would have addressed the concerns the Town raised while generating more revenue for the region than received from the taxi industry.

“This serves as just another reason why Albany must pass a statewide bill to bring regulated ride-sharing to New York State,” Anfang said.

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said before the vote that he was in favor of the amendment “but I do want to revisit the fees.”

Glinka said there are differences in the Uber, livery and cab operations and where in town and how they can pick up passengers.

Fees are $750 for taxi owners to obtain a town license, $150 for each vehicle and $100 per driver. Drivers with only one cab, as is the case with Uber drivers who work for the company but drive their own cars, pay a flat annual fee of $1,000.

Uber driver David Baz said during the public hearing that he was in favor of the new measure but concerned about how the new regulations would be enforced.

Baz said that in East Hampton, where officials last year adopted requirements for Uber that drove the business out of town, enforcement is such that Uber drivers dare not try to circumvent the regulations.

“There will be a window period when law enforcement would be doing spot checks — but it will be very much enforced” afterward, Glinka said.

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