Public Safety, Jobs Depend on Statewide Rideshare Regulatory Framework
Fostering job growth and improving public safety are key elements in
just about any political stump speech, and with elections quickly approaching,
Louisianans will get their fill of these topics. While debate on such issues is
important, the Pelican State desperately needs less talk and more action.
As it stands, Louisiana has the country’s seventh-highest
rate of impaired driving and one of the nation’s highest poverty
rates — at nearly 20 percent. There is no
silver bullet that would fully eradicate DUIs and poverty, but lawmakers can
take small, smart steps toward alleviating the intensity of these problems. They
can start by creating a permissive statewide regulatory framework for rideshare
applications like Lyft and Uber. Earlier this year, Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma,
filed a bill
to do just that.
Right now, Louisiana is one
of only five states without a statewide regulatory regime governing
ridesharing, which is stymying the industry, harming public safety and hampering
job growth. Without a uniform regulatory system, rideshare companies must
either struggle to navigate a patchwork of varying city and county regulations
or avoid locales with burdensome ordinances altogether. This reality has
greatly limited access to ridesharing in Louisiana. Indeed, because of the
current regulatory environments, Lyft and Uber combined only operate in seven
Louisiana cities. Rather than maintaining the status quo, lawmakers should encourage
ridesharing to expand throughout Louisiana.
Research suggests that when ridesharing companies enter a new market,
it drastically limits intoxicated driving. In fact, a dramatic reduction in
DUIs in Miami,
Florida, and across
Georgia coincided with rideshare apps’ entrance into those markets —
and it’s easy to see why. Lyft and Uber are convenient, cheap and provide a
superior customer experience, which invites bar-goers to forego getting behind
the wheel while intoxicated. Reducing drunken driving is a critical need in
Louisiana too. After all, in 2017 alone, alcohol-impaired driving claimed 212
lives in the state.
While saving lives is ridesharing apps’ most important application, they also satisfy another need: They create quality jobs. Of course, not all Lyft or Uber drivers work 40 hours a week; many are part-time drivers who are supplementing their income. Since both companies offer great flexibility, drivers can choose what part-time hours they wish to work. Considering that the state has a pervasive poverty problem and a well-above average unemployment rate (at nearly 5 percent), Louisianans need more job options like these.
Ridesharing promises to deliver much-needed benefits to Louisiana, but
these aren’t limited to public safety and job creation. Lyft and Uber can help
in myriad other ways, including being a reliable form of transportation for the
elderly, the disabled, or those who simply cannot afford a personal vehicle.
The sad truth is that Louisiana hasn’t been able to fully reap the rideshare
industry’s many benefits because customers cannot use these apps in most parts
of the state. Fortunately, that
may soon change. Rep. Magee’s bill would create a statewide regulatory network,
allowing Lyft and Uber drivers to work in all corners of the state. HB 575 has
gained considerable traction, too: It passed the Louisiana House of Representatives
unanimously and now awaits action in the Senate.
For years, politicians have campaigned on promises of public safety
and jobs. With HB 575 hanging in the balance, time will tell if legislators are
serious or if they are just all talk.