Jefferson Parish – a New Orleans suburb and Louisiana’s most populous parish — is considering an ordinance by Parish Councilmembers Cynthia Lee-Sheng and Ben Zahn that would legalize ride-sharing services such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar. If approved, the measure would allow ride-sharing services to operate in unincorporated parts of the parish, although city governments still would have authority to regulated ride-sharing services within their borders.

Ridesharing also wouldn’t be allowed at Louis Armstrong International Airport, which is physically located within Jefferson Parish but is property of the City of New Orleans. New Orleans, which received a Ridescore of D+ in R Street’s inaugural survey of cities across the country, continues to ban services like UberX.

Despite these and other limitations, the council has the opportunity to give at least some Jefferson Parish consumers accesss to more, less-expensive and more environmentally friendly choices in transportation, in addition to providing opportunities for part-time drivers to earn some cash. According to the New Orleans Advocate, the Jefferson Parish Council could vote on the ordinance as soon as Jan. 28.

As expected, the ordinance has drawn opposition from the taxi industry, which sees ride-sharing companies as unfair competition. The two major complaints, according to Dave Sutton, a spokesman for the industry-backed campaign, are that Uber conducts inadequate background checks and maintains inadequate liability insurance. Sutton points out that taxi drivers must have their background checks conducted by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, whereas Uber does background checks in-house. The ordinance would require ride-sharing companies to look back as far as seven years when screening drivers, but does not require them to go through the sheriff’s office.

But with some minor amendments, the ordinance could be a win-win situation for both the ride-sharing industry and the taxi industry. Instead of adding burdens to the ride-sharing industry, the council should lower the regulatory barriers all around. There’s no evidence to suggest ride-sharing drivers are more dangerous than taxi drivers. There have been reports of assaults by taxi drivers even with their more allegedly strict background checks. Jefferson Parish should eliminate the requirement to the sheriff’s office for all driver background checks. In addition, taxis should be open to allowing customers to rate their drivers online, just as ride-sharing companies already do. This system empowers consumers to screen out bad drivers.

The ordinance does require that so-called “surge” pricing, activated when there is increased demand for service or reduced supply of drivers, must be in accordance with Louisiana’s price-gouging law when a state of emergency is declared. It also would be fair to require ride-sharers and taxi companies to adhere to the exact same minimum insurance coverages.

A properly drafted ordinance from Jefferson Parish could serve as a model, not just for the neighbors in New Orleans, but for other cities and counties and parishes across Louisiana. Consumers deserve more choices in how they get from Point A to Point B. Those looking to earn extra income should have the opportunities that ride-sharing provides. Local entrepreneurs who want to compete with Uber, Lyft and Sidecar should get that opportunity to do that, as well.

Mardi Gras season is here. How nice would it be to extend this wonderful new market of safe, affordable rides to the revelers, so that they can laissez les bons temps rouler.

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