One of the many goals this blog has is to feature topics that are important to the Libertarian party and local policies that affect us all. To that end, this post is centered around the recent move by the city of Gadsden in how they define and license “Transportation Network Companies” (TNC’s).
This is the legal term used to define and therefore describe services like Uber, Lyft, etc. As the legal definition is set forth from the June 26th, 2017 article IV – Transportation Services Company addition to the city code of ordinances. To quote:
Transportation network company or TNC means a corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, or other entity that only uses a digital network to connect TNC riders to TNC drivers who provide TNC services. A TNC shall not be deemed to control, direct or manage the personal vehicles or TNC drivers that connect to its digital network, except where agreed to by written contract. The vehicles used to provide TNC services are not taxicabs. TNCs are not motor carriers, express companies, utilities, common carriers, for-hire vehicles, contract carriers, transportation companies, (pursuant to the Code of Ala., 1975, Title 37) or taxicab or limousine services.
TNC services means the provision of transportation by a driver to a rider, beginning when a driver accepts a ride requested by a rider through a digital network controlled by a TNC, continuing while the driver transports a requesting rider, and ending when the last requesting rider departs from the TNC vehicle.
Having set forth this definition of TNC now we can start to see the wonderful services appear for use within our great city correct? Well not so fast there my friend. This now then sets the tone for anyone wanting to work, part of full time for say Uber or Lyft, or any other “TNC” first they must obtain a license from the City of Gadsden.
Sec. 126-146. – License required.
No person, firm or corporation shall operate a TNC within the city without first obtaining a license from the city.
(Ord. No. O-11-17, § 1, 5-9-2017)
Wonderful! More government oversight in order to protect the people from themselves. Really this is a tax on anyone that would dare to try and enable themselves to participate in a free market concept like Uber, using their own car that they have already had to pay fees / license for: Drivers License, Tag, Insurance, Tax on their car.
All of this isn’t good enough, now to use your car in order to participate in a service like Uber, you have to pay another license fee in order to establish with the city of Gadsden that your an official TNC driver.
This is also not the end of our story, the plot thickens as we dive deeper into the new city ordinance. For example, relating to the general liability insurance that is required to exist for a TNC.
Each TNC shall carry general liability insurance that provides for at least $1,000,000.00 for claims against the TNC arising out of its operations. The City of Gadsden shall be named as an additional insured.
Of course the city of Gadsden should be thrown into the insurance claim, if any issues ever took place with a TNC driver rendering services. Why is this needed?
As you can see from the above search on uber.com, Gadsden, AL is not a valid city in which Uber services can be rendered. Nor does it seem it will ever be the case based now on the current ordinance that has been set forth.
More government is the answer right? We need government to protect us from ourselves correct? Hopefully you dear reader can understand my sarcasm in this paragraph and understand I do not believe this is the best course of action for our city. We should be welcoming and enabling free market concepts like Uber, instead of trying to make more money at the city level and control it.
One final nod on this subject that is worth noting hails from Sec. 126-162. – Government owned transportation companies. What is this? Oh here is an exception to this ordinance, which states:
Transportation companies owned or operated by a municipality, a county government, the state of Alabama or the federal government shall be exempt from the provisions of this article.
(Ord. No. O-11-17, § 1, 5-9-2017)
Wow! So if a TNC or transportation company is owned by any level of government, then these rules do not apply to said entity, at all. Well hot damn! Imagine that would be the case. Not only does this ordinance crush the reality of bringing in such services as uber and lyft to Etowah county and specifically Gadsden it also actually encourages government owned versions of a TNC. Making them exceptions to these rules.
To complete this post then, and in short, Uber and other services will not exist in the city of Gadsden anytime soon. Through these new ordinances such TNC companies will not operate and agree to such unneeded license requirements by a municipality. One would hope that the City of Gadsden could learn from other cities in which Uber is successful. Like Birmingham, AL for one. Here is a direct link to Uber’s resource page for how easy it is to get started as an Uber drive in Birmingham: Uber.com driving in Birmingham, AL.
If this is not a valid example in how Government is over stepping it point of existence, and further halting progress for free market societies then I don’t know what is. As a Libertarian this type of government control is the opposite of which we seek. We need leadership that will enable businesses vs. trying to stifle and control it.
You can view a full copy of the latest version and changes for the city code of ordinances here: library.municode.com/City_Of_Gadsden_AL