It’s not easy or cheap to become a cab driver in Davidson County.
“They have to get an F endorsement on their drivers license, they have to go to a 3-day taxi pro school, they have to take a hospitality class,” says Melinda Grant, manager of Green Cabs in Nashville — and the list went on quite a bit longer.
Grant says it’s not fair that ridesharing services, like Lyft and Uber, aren’t regulated by the city when taxis are so heavily. “We would love to see them kicked out, period, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
In Memphis, the city did ask ridesharing services to stop doing business until they acquire city permits. But Nashville is taking a different path.
Billy Fields is in charge of Nashville’s transportation commission. He says the city has a positive relationship with Lyft and Uber.
“We’re not trying to stifle innovation. One of the things that was very clear to me in talking with people: it’s a service that’s needed. As many visitors as we have coming to Nashville, they want other opportunities to be able to move in the city.”
Still, ridesharing services are so new they’re not covered in any Metro ordinance. Fields said last month that police had issued tickets to drivers for technically doing business illegally.
Fields is working on regulations that would classify them as “passenger vehicles for-hire,” a category that currently includes limos and shuttles but not taxis. The regulations will mandate background checks, permits and insurance similar to other Nashville for-hire drivers and will likely require Lyft and Uber drivers to pay a couple hundred dollars a year.
“If you don’t have the regulations, you’re running a risk of not having insured vehicles, having a driver that may not be a good driver,” Fields says.
Cities are known to have tumultuous relationships with ridesharing services: In New York City, Lyft is going to court against the state’s attorney general; Lyft is contending that it’s not a for-hire service. In Seattle, the city had capped the number of drivers per ridesharing service at 150, but its city council voted Monday to legalize them without caps.
And Uber’s policy director told NPR last month that it had regulatory issues in all 128 cities it was in.
Meanwhile, in Memphis, the city’s cease-and-desist letters don’t seem to be working. Reports say that drivers are still on the streets.