Cambridge licensing commission debates outlawing Uber

uber

Cambridge is considering new regulations that would outlaw Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, and any other unlicensed car service that allows riders to hire a driver with a mobile app.

The city will discuss the proposed policy Tuesday night at the License Commission General Hearing.

Essentially, the proposal requires any smartphone car service such as Uber that operates in Cambridge to obtain a dispatch license from the city. And any driver using those kinds of services to pick up passenger must also obtain a license.

The proposed rules also ban what it calls “demand response bookings.” Those are rides in which the end location isn’t known when a call for service is answered. That’s essentially how Uber operates.

The proposal goes on to say that even the smartphones that are used to charge fares also need to be licensed and approved by the city.

It also includes numerous other new rules that seem designed to keep services such as Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, and other upstart transportation services, out of Cambridge.

This isn’t the first time that the city has attempted to oust Uber. Back in 2012, the city sued to overturn a state ruling that gave Uber the green light to operate in Massachusetts.

This time around, Cambridge City Manager Richard Rossi stressed that the city is not trying to shut down Uber.

Still, he said, it needs “a bit” of regulation.

The rules proposed by the License Commission are a starting point, Rossi said. “Those aren’t the end regulations. That’s to begin the conversation.”

In the end, he said, the goal is to come up with “reasonable regulation” to apply to Uber and other smartphone-based transportation services. “We think it needs a bit of regulation so we as a community can say that it is safe.”

Mike Farrell is a technology reporter for the Boston Globe. Email him at michael.farrell@globe.com.
Follow Michael on Twitter